geekStarter Teams Updates – January 2018

The new year has started well for geekStarter teams. Here are some recent updates they shared with us. Our Lady of the Snows Synthetic Biology and Robotics Club – Canmore OLS SynBio continues to focus on a plastic that will use a biological construct to improve the sorting of plastics at recovery centers. The team is deep into research on the structure of plastic hydrocarbons, industry standards for dying, marking, sorting and recycling of plastics, and more. It has been challenging to find a way to construct a device that will work – it is possible that the team will still need to pivot our project direction in order to make it achievable in our lab. OLS SynBio recently participated in geekStarter’s start-up event, and gained a lot of experience and insight into the entrepreneurship aspects of our project, and biotech in general.  We continue to meet twice weekly to research and outreach in our community, and have a full-day workshop planned with our mentors Lisa and David for February 2nd.  This workshop will solidify our project idea and plan. We recently received sponsorship from New England Biolabs, covering the cost of several of our lab reagents and enzymes (about $500 value).  We will be applying for an Alberta Government CIP travel grant, as well as a Town of Canmore grant in the coming weeks. Ross Sheppard High School Innovation Club – Edmonton Self driving and racing Raspberry Pi cars: We have been modifying and troubleshooting code on our original tank bots, but this proved trickier than expected. We will soon get new cars that have different drives on the raspberry pis, and their GitHub code...
Spotlight on geekStarters: Sydnee Calhoun

Spotlight on geekStarters: Sydnee Calhoun

Sydnee Calhoun – member of 2017 ULethbridge iGEM team and dedicated mentor of the Lethbridge High School iGEM team – stands by her team’s poster at the iGEM Giant Jamboree in in Boston.   10 Quick Questions for Sydnee How would you describe yourself in one sentence? An all-around science nerd that loves to learn about new concepts and have discussions with people from all backgrounds. What do you love the most about your work/school? I have really been enjoying my higher-level biology and biochemistry classes. Most of them are covering the theory that I have been putting into practice through iGEM for the past 3 years. They are also going into further detail about recent advancements that have occurred, which is always intriguing! What is your best accomplishment so far? I think my best accomplishment was last year’s iGEM season. The Lethbridge High School team created a cool project on making eco-friendly ink from E. coli that a lot of people loved at the Jamboree. The Lethbridge Collegiate team also had a fantastic season and our project on developing a system to make synthetic biology more accessible was nominated for several awards. I am proud of both of my teams and all the hard-work that we put in to have successful seasons! What is something you are working towards right now? I am currently doing preparatory work for my honour’s thesis that I will be starting this summer. How do you like to spend your downtime? Outside of iGEM, I am involved with an outreach program called Destination Exploration at the University of Lethbridge that aims on teaching...
Meet geekStarter’s 2017-2018 Mentors

Meet geekStarter’s 2017-2018 Mentors

In the picture above, mentors Erin Kelly and David Lloyd work with students at geekStarter’s start-up workshop on December 2nd, 2017   Mentors add tremendous value to the geekStarter high-school program, and our 2017-18 teams are lucky to work with an amazing group of mentors. Let us introduce them. Aydan Salman-Dilgimen – Specialist/on-call mentor, synthetic biology Dr. Aydan Salman-Dilgimen completed her PhD in the Division of Biology, Chemistry, and Pharmacy at Freie University, Germany in 2008.  In 2014, she completed her postdoctoral training under the direction of Dr. George Chaconas in the Bacterial Pathogenesis Group at the University of Calgary and further worked 4 years as a Research Associate in Chaconas Lab. She is currently Adjunct Assistant Professor at St. Mary’s University and also Lecturer in the Department of General Education at Mount Royal University. Chris Isaac – Specialist/on-call mentor, synthetic biology Chris is currently a graduate student in Biochemistry at the University of Lethbridge having completed his B.Sc. Biology in 2017. The focus of his research is understanding common pathways in cancer and dementia. He has participated in iGEM both as a high school student, and as a collegiate team member since 2012. In addition, he has been involved in Youth Technopreneurship, AGILITY, the Chinook Entrepreneur Challenge, and has spoken at the United Nations Biological Weapons Convention as an iGEM Delegate. David Lloyd – Team mentor, Our Lady of the Snows in Canmore, synthetic biology David received his MSc in Biology from the University of Calgary and is the CEO of FREDsense, a synthetic biology startup building water sensors for contaminants. David has been a research technician, a project manager and an avid iGEMer competing as a...
Spotlight on geekStarters: Notre Dame Collegiate Syn Bio Team

Spotlight on geekStarters: Notre Dame Collegiate Syn Bio Team

Recent photo of team mentor Emily Hicks and 6 of the 20 student team members in their school’s lab Check out this recent interview with the synthetic biology team from Notre Dame Collegiate in High River, and learn about their plans for the 2017-18 season and beyond. • What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments? Something that makes our team unique is that it has an age range of grades 7-12, and we built our own incubator from scratch last year using materials found at the Home Depot. Some of our favourite moments from the past few years include the iGEM lab workshops in Lethbridge, as well as the Jamboree that we hosted at our school last spring for synthetic biology and robotics teams to present their projects and get to know each other. • What is your team’s favorite fun activity? What’s something your team does to bond? One way we bond as a team is by eating lunch together before our meetings start. This gives us time to share ideas and get to know each other better. • How does your team use social media? Our team currently does not have a social media account, but we do plan to make an instagram and facebook account for 2018. • How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less? We are currently researching two different ideas: plant antifreeze and breaking down fatbergs. Our fatberg bacteria would work to breakdown “fatbergs” that block drains and major sewage systems which is becoming problematic in many areas around the world. Our plant antifreeze bacteria would protect Alberta crops from flash frosts; this idea...

Meet geekStarter’s 2017-18 middle-school and high-school teams

On December 1st, geekStarter welcomed its 2017-2018 middle-school and high-school teams. We are excited to welcome them and wish them good luck on their projects! Father Patrick Mercredi High School: RSports Robotics Group – Fort McMurray The team is building several robots to help with problems from their immediate community. One of their robots will be used as tackle dummy at practices of their school’s football team. Another robot will help in inspecting steep surfaces which people cannot reach. The team will also continue to work on the bear decoy robot they started last year. The bear robot is used in training dogs to scare away real bears at remote work places. Other robotics projects focus on new forms of transportation, and underwater research. The team also plans to compete in various competitions such as FIRST Lego League (FLL), VEX Robotics, and FIRST Robotics. Lethbridge High School iGEM Team – Lethbridge Based at University of Lethbridge, and recently returned from the iGEM 2017 Giant Jamboree with a silver medal for their SynthetINK project, the team will soon start recruiting new members and launch its 2018 iGEM activities. This team has been the longest on geekStarter’s high-school roster, and we look forward to working together again in the 2017-18 season. NEXUS Robotics – Calgary This team works out of Protospace and brings together students from several high schools from across Calgary. Registered to participate in the 2018 FIRST Robotics competition, the team’s original work will use autonomous behaviour algorithms to make their remotely-controlled robot capable of detecting and avoiding collisions. The team will participate in First Robotics regional competitions where they will test their robot and its autonomous control mechanism, and learn how to improve it. Notre Dame Collegiate Synthetic Biology Team – High River Betting on the experience and skills accumulated over the past two geekStarter seasons, this team has big plans for 2018; they will participate in the iGEM competition, for the...