Biobits: Low cost kits for K-12 STEM education

October 11, 2019
Molecular biology is difficult to teach in schools, since the concepts cannot be seen and are represented with abstract diagrams in textbooks. Some schools have introduced hands-on activities, such as growing cells that glow green, that illustrate these ideas in real life to facilitate learning. However, such activities are limited to schools with resources: expensive equipment is required to handle live microorganisms and biological components, making it prohibitively costly and complicated for many schools. However, we believe that everyone deserves access to quality biology education, to both inspire a new generation of scientists excited about biomedical research and to provide everyone a basic understanding of molecular biology and how that is relevant for our everyday lives. Thus, we aim to provide products that can bridge this gap. The opportunity to get this project funded (with CSF and other funding) was very important to its success – while my lab is able to provide funding/resources for the technical aspects of the project (i.e., the biological components of the kit), I did not have funding for the other kit components, like the boxes and the electronical components, as well as the shipping costs. In order to properly translate my project from the research lab into actual classrooms, I needed external funding and this funding help make this a reality. The schools (teachers and students) were able to benefit by getting to use these educationally useful kits for free, in return for providing my valuable feedback that was beneficial for me to see how useful my kits actually were and giving me ideas of how to improve future kits. I also learned that I was truly interested in pursuing this as a career, but in parallel, I also hope that I inspired interest in biology for some students. In the long term, I hope to continue this mutual impact by scaling up the amount of kits that we produce and distribute.