Silver Medal Human Practices

Overview of Outreach

At the start of the team's work we spoke with a few members of the waste-water treatment world in order to determine if our project was going to be useful to the community and if it was going to be effective. We also spoke at a forum on synthetic biology and genetic engineering at the Michigan Science Center. This included a presentation on our project as well as round table discussions with locals on what they thought about synthetic biology and legal, ethical, and moral complications. After this we presented at a women in engineering excursion on our project and synthetic biology in general trying to focus on getting the students interested in synthetic biology. We provided parts and instructions for them to make paper microbial fuel cells and demonstrated two working models. We also hosted the iGEM midwest meetup. This included presentations on our projects, board games, ice breaker activities, a nice lunch, a walk through the MSU gardens and an ice cream break.

The Waste-Water Treatment Plant

We visited the plant in hopes of leaving with a better idea on how to tackle the current issue of contaminated water supply. Bob, the manager of the plant, took us on a full tour displaying everything he could from where the water entered to where the solids and the clean water departed. Bob spoke told us about how water treatment is expensive and that the plant is barely getting by and using 40 year old equipment and machines. Late in the tour he told us some stories from when he visited some small villages in Nigeria where the people would drink water that was clearly contaminated as they had no choice and little knowledge of the contamination. This encouraged us to go ahead with making a cheap water contaminant detector.

Michigan Science Center

We presented at the Michigan Science Center in Detroit Michigan. We spoke about our project to people from different backgrounds and informed them about the impacts of our project. The attendees asked many questions about our project and its safety, so we made sure to take their concerns into account. We had a a few memorable discussions about the risks of our genetically engineered Shewanella escaping into the environment and how one would have to deal with that. Thankfully our bacteria is non-pathogenic and the modifications we made would not be harmful, except possibly the addition of spectinomycin resistance. Despite the safety of our organism we also made sure that our bioreactors would be safe in an environment and would be nearly fool proof. With the reactor being almost entirely sealed, except the injection port which is usually sealed, they are safe in the environment. After discussing our project for a while with the attendees we sat down and had small round table forum style discussions on many topics ranging from wiping out mosquitoes to using genetically engineered bacteria to produce spider silk. The discussions were informative and heartfelt from some of the attendees. We ended up leaving the Center with a much better understanding of the public's view and the public left with a better understanding of genetic engineering.

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