Synthetic biology is an interdisciplinary branch of biology and engineering. The subject combines disciplines from within these domains, such as biotechnology, genetic engineering, molecular biology, molecular engineering, systems biology, membrane science, biophysics, chemical and biological engineering, electrical and computer engineering, control engineering, and evolutionary biology. Synthetic biology applies these disciplines to build artificial biological systems for research, engineering and medical applications.
Researchers at the Wyss Institute, MIT, and Northwestern University have collaborated to create “BioBits,” a low-cost, shelf-stable educational kit to teach synthetic and molecular biology in classrooms and to citizen scientists. The kit utilizes freeze-dried cell-free reactions that eliminate the need for growing living cells in order to perform biological experiments. Different modules in the kit teach students different concepts in synthetic and molecular biology by engaging their senses, such as sight, smell, and touch, without expensive lab equipment or specialized training. With BioBits, the researchers hope to inspire a new generation of young scientists in a fun and engaging way for less than $10 per student.
Credit: Wyss Institute at Harvard University.
“The BioBits kits enable us to expose young kids, older kids, and even adults to the wonders of synthetic biology and, as a result, are poised to transform science education and society.”
– JIM COLLINS
An expansion of the BioBits Bright kit, called BioBits Explorer, includes experiments that engage the senses of smell and touch and allow students to probe their environment using designer synthetic biosensors.