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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 has been pursued by many teams so we are doing more research to see if there is any way we can change or improve past designs to be successful.

What has been one highlight of working on your project so far?

At the end of last year we ran our first successful gel electrophoresis in the lab. It was very satisfying to see the strands of DNA glow, knowing that our plasmid finally made it into our bacteria!

What is your team’s biggest challenge?

So far we have had difficulties in choosing a single project to go forward with. We have limited our choices to two different ideas, a bacteria that breaks down fat (fatbergs) and an antifreeze bacteria for crops.
We do not have access to specific equipment, so we have had to make it ourselves. Our do-it-yourself equipment hasn’t worked as well as we had hoped so we have had to make changes to improve their function. This year we purchased new parts to improve our designs, and so far, so good!

What does your team look forward to the most this season?

We are looking forward to completing a project from start to finish and, hopefully, we will be able to take our project to iGEM in 2018.

What do you hope to achieve by the end of this season?

Through improving research and lab skills we plan to finish our project, and benefit the people with the problem we try to resolve – whether that be Fatbergs or Antifreeze. Our team hopes to bring our project to iGEM 2018.

Where would you like to see your project go in the future? What are your team’s dreams for the future?

We would love to develop a working prototype that can be used by our target consumers.

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!

geekStarter teams intermingled and collaborated on entrepreneurial exercises at geekStarter's startup workshop on December 2nd.

geekStarter teams mingling and collaborating at geekStarter’s startup workshop on December 2nd

  • 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 first time. With guidance from their mentors, the team deemed the project they were working on last year – an ovulation detection device for natural family planning purposes – as too ambitious, and they are  selecting a new project. It will either be something to break down fat that clogs sewage and drains, or a device to protect crops from freezing.

  • Our Lady of the Snows Synthetic Biology and Robotics Club – Canmore

Last year, this team used design thinking to come up with a new project, which they will take to the 2018 iGEM competition. Now in their 5th geekStarter year, the team has set their bar high and wants to combine synthetic biology and robotics to improve the sorting of recyclable plastics.  The plan is to build synthetic biology constructs for tagging plastics, and sort the bio-tagged plastics with help from a robot.

  • Ross Sheppard High School Innovation Club – Edmonton

Now in their second year with us, this robotics team will continue to grow their skills and build their various projects, most of which are intended for their own school community. This season, the team wants to improve the autonomous capabilities of the First Person View (FPV) drone and the Remotely Controlled (RC) vehicle they built last year, with the goal of gathering data and visual information from around their school. They also plan to design and build a humanoid robot that can do a signature move representing their school’s spirit.

  • Ted Harrison School: Design Thinking Club – Calgary

An expansion of the Biodesign club started two years ago at Ted Harrison school, the new design thinking club will focus on three problems, two of which are new to them while the third is a continuation from last year. The students will explore the problem of osteoporosis and possible treatments involving synthetic biology. They also want to build a robot to help with cleaning up public spaces. In addition, the team will continue last year’s project on removing pesticides from water, which will give new team members the opportunity to collaborate with older team members and alums and learn from them.

RebelBio: For Aspiring Entrepreneurs in Life Sciences

RebelBio: For Aspiring Entrepreneurs in Life Sciences


Do you feel a strong urge to commercialize your project or research into something that the world needs? 

RebelBio, the world’s first early-stage life-sciences accelerator is seeking applications from ambitious scientists and entrepreneurs for its 2018 programs.

RebelBio will invest up to $250,000, along with extensive business and scientific mentoring during a three-month long program, which will take place in London from January 8th to April 8th 2018.

For an overview of the program, visit this link.

To apply, go here