In the Human Practice (HP) part, we seamlessly intergraded with our project, to do the HP for the project and to design / redesign the project for the HP. Briefly, inspired by the creativity and enthusiasm of non-biologists through interviews, we sought to find a solution to engage more general public to advance synthetic biology in an interactive way.
We invented MagicBlock, a platform that integrates controlling software, robotic hardware, and quorum sensing bacteria as basic blocks to build gene circuits.
To put our platform into practice and obtain feedback for further improvement, we held two workshops to introduce the basic idea of synthetic biology and MagicBlock, and then guided participants to use MagicBlock to design their own bio-products.
Fascinatingly, we received various thought-provoking designs using MagicBlock elements, such as water pollution alarm, synthetic music, and bacteria painting panel, all originated from non-biologists, which potentially will inspire future research. Also, we received valuable feedback suggestions from participants and experts to improve our MagicBlock. We imagine a future of synthetic biology empowered by a more broad population and our MagicBlock should contribute to it a platform.
We interviewed people of different ages and occupations. We have found that many people are very enthusiastic and imaginative about bio-designs, yet have little knowledge in synthetic biology and little lab experience. We highlighted a few interesting interviews blew. Besides, we also have sent out questionnaire for broader audience. Their opinions are listed in the Background section.
Design of MagicBlock
To lower the bar of synthetic biology and bio-design, we wanted to invent a lab free bio-design platform for general people, the MagicBlock. This is a cloud platform that integrates controlling software, robotic hardware and quorum sensing bacteria as basic blocks to build gene circuits. These bacteria blocks will serve input and output of a gene circuit, and will be connected with QS signals by our liquid handling robot. Therefore, we ‘translated’ the synthetic biology language into engineering language, which is more accessible to the public. We imagine that using the software, designers can design their products like programming through the internet, and then the robot will work autonomously to build the gene circuits for a bio-product. For details, please visit the Design of MagicBlock section.
We held two workshops to practice our idea in using MagicBlock. Here are some highlights. A detailed one is available in the Workshop section.
Testing is a key part for the success of our project. We held two workshops to guide the participants to use MagicBlock to design their own bio-products.
During this practice, we received valuable suggestions to improve MagicBlock. More importantly, we received various thought-provoking designs using MagicBlock elements, such as water pollution alarm, synthetic music, and bacteria painting panel et al, all originated from non-biologists.
We collected feedback after our workshops. Here are some advices we received for Robot and software. The details are showed in Feedback section.
In addition to collect feedback from the community, we also asked opinions from experts. We visited and interviewed scholars from synthetic biology, electronic engineering and computational biology. Interchanging of thoughts between our team and these scholars inspired and encouraged us to improve our project design and practice. For example, by visiting professor Chen Luonan, Wang Yong and Yuan Bo, we benefited from their insights in modeling, popularization of synthetic Biology and value of MagicBlock respectively.
We carried out Biodesign Thinking Classes and Synthetic Biology Seminars in Junior high school and senior high schools respectively. During those events, we introduced synthetic biology to the students, guided them to think in a bold way, and promoted their bio-innovative intelligence.
We opened A ‘WeChat’ official account, the Chinese version of Facebook for the purpose of popularizing synthetic biology. Popular science articles written by our team members, as well as the concept of MagicBlock and Bio-design, are posted every week, mainly to arouse public’s interests.
Biosafety is a very important issue for any biology related experiments. However, the biosafety education in China is far behind of the development of biological research. In many places, students are not trained properly because of the outdated education materials. There is a language barrier for many people in China to read biosafety guidelines written in English. Therefore, we have imitated and led in an intercollegiate collaborating project to produce a series of biosafety education videos in Chinese. This video collection has been uploaded online and is freely available at our homepage on YouTube and Bilibili, a popular Chinese video-sharing website.