Lethbridge High School

For the 6th consecutive year, we collaborated with the Lethbridge High School iGEM team providing mentorship and assistance with wet lab work, while also working together on the educational aspects of our projects. The high school team worked on creating STEAM (Science Technology, Engineering, Art, Math) related courses for the Alberta curriculum while the collegiate team designed Professional Development day workshops for teachers using our system as a teaching aide. We worked together on developing relevant questions to ask teaching staff during interviews and a member from both teams was present for each interview. Our team also had high school members read over our protocols developed for teachers and students to see if they understood the concepts or had suggestions for improvement. In terms of mentorship, collegiate team member Chris Isaac hosted a coding workshop for the high school team to teach them coding skills and web design, collegiate team member Taylor Sheahan assisted with wet lab work and collegiate team member Sydnee Calhoun acted as an advisor for the high school team.

Validation of BBa_K2481401

The goal of the Lethbridge High School team is to create environmentally friendly pigments in E. coli as an alternative to current production methods. Our team tested their melanin construct (BBa_K2481401) to see if it could be produced using the PURExpess system, providing further characterization of their part. Production of melanin in a cell-free system provides a scalable and safe method for large-scale pigment production. In theory, our system would be able to produce pigment as well. Although, initial attempts at synthesizing Melanin in vitro have not been successful.

Florida State University

In 2015 and 2016 our team had the privilege of working with Dr. Cesar Rodriguez. Over those two years, he worked with us remotely from Florida as an advisor, giving us project guidance through numerous video conference calls and visits to Lethbridge. When we heard that he would be starting a brand new team this year out of Florida State University we jumped at the opportunity to collaborate with them. We have helped each other through continued mentorship and project guidance via video conference calls. FSU was also able to mail us two of their constructs BBa_K2367009 And BBa_K2367010 so that we could in vitro transcribe them in our transcription and translation system. We quickly learned from our first failed attempt at transcribing their constructs that their promoter was not compatible with our system. This helped us to realize a flaw in both our transcription and translation system as well as commercially available systems. After talking with FSU we decide that to better address the needs of synthetic biologist and make our system more dynamic we should look to incorporate native E.coli RNA polymerase into our system in the future. Throughout our reiterative talks, we have both benefited immensely in being able to constantly design and refine our projects and goals.