Experiencing molecular sensor development – how can laypeople participate in molecular development projects?
Innovative research training
Innovative research training: Our aim was to allow people that never used a pipet before to contribute to the development of a sensor for the Neglected Tropical Disease taeniasis by working in the lab. For this reason, we dissected our pipeline into small tasks and developed a training program to allow laypeople to perform these tasks on their own. This approach was adapted from martial arts, where students learn and repeat single movements upon perfection at the beginning to then learn how to combine them to complex choreographies.
Out of 29 students that participated in this training, over 20 decided to permanently work in our lab and thus became members of our “beginner lab team”. Two young students that were the first to experience our training even developed into leading positions within our science team and designed experiments completely on their own.
Scaling our innovative Research Training using augmented reality
Despite the overall positive result of this training and although we designed the training to be as time effective as possible, we realized that it is impossible to maintain such a training with scientist volunteering as trainers. We tried peer-teaching, where beginners that recently learnt a new technique were teaching laypersons that were completely new to the program. This led to an increase in errors. For this reason, we started using Augmented Reality Glasses to teach skills to laypeople that have never been in the lab before. We built a first prototype using Microsoft HoloLens:
Furthermore we participated in the KickStarter ZapBox and were one of the first to receive a Mixed Reality device that could serve the same purpose as a HoleLense at a fraction of the costs (25 USD versus 3.000 USD). Despite teaming up with developers from ZapBox we were unable to adapt ZapBox for our training, due to limitations of the current ZapBox software. Using HoloLens we have taught PCR CleanUp to a 18 year old school kid and are looking forward to expand this program.