PLAnet Zero: A Holistic Approach

Waste management is as much a societal challenge as it is a technical issue. All members of a community produce waste and are affected by how it is disposed of. When designing a project to address plastic pollution, community participation is essential to success. In addition to our engagement with the waste management community, we also made inroads to improve waste management education and address the hesitancy that often comes with new technologies.

Waste management education

Educational Presentations for Young Elementary Children

In discussion with Multi-Material Stewardship Manitoba (MMSM) we decided to focus our efforts at the elementary and university levels. Noticing that the educational material currently available to younger elementary students was not relatable with designed an activity booklet to accompany a short in-class presentation. The activity is intended to help students identify which waste category items in their daily lives belong to.

See our activity booklet here.

Waste Management Education at the UofM

In addition to elementary education, we are participating in recent University of Manitoba initiatives toward promoting on-campus composting and the use of PLA plastics. We are collaborating with the University of Manitoba's Sustainability office. We are assisting in initiatives to inform students about proper waste management practices.

Promoting Synthetic Biology

Public Science Festival

Team UManitoba is proud to participate in the promotion of science as a public good and as an open and inclusive community. Our values closely align with Science Rendevouz, a non-profit best known for its annual outdoor science festivals. This year we created a series of hands-on activities to demonstrate biological concepts. The activities were run over the course of two days for children aged six to twelve.

The first activity shows how biological material can be used to make plastics. Participants were explained how heat and acidity denature the proteins found in milk. The resulting precipitate is a mouldable plastic-like material that holds coloured dyes. This activity is very well received, is simple to execute and demonstrates both the idea of biomaterials and protein denaturation.

The second activity is aimed at phospholipid membranes and the idea of selective permeability. Participants use a frame made of straws and soapy water to make a bubble film. Once a good bubble file is established children pass the item through the bubble film attempting not to burst it. The main idea is that items (or hands) also coated in soapy water can be passed in and out of the bubble film without bursting it. For older students, some more chemical detail is included, including straws to represent protein channels and the basis for how handwashing with soap kills bacteria.

High School Guest Lessons

UManitoba iGEM collaborates with local high schools to enhance the biology curriculum. After students have completed their lessons on the central dogma we have a lesson that we deliver as guests. We demonstrate how the principles they have just learned can be used as tools to solve local issues. We find that for most students this is their first exposure to synthetic biology. We present the ideas of standard biological parts, practical examples of gene editing technologies, and the thought process that goes into realizing a SynBio project.