geekStarter Teams Updates – March 2018

Wondering what has been going on with the geekStarter high-school teams over the past few weeks? Here are some recent updates they have sent us. Read on… NEXUS Robotics – Calgary Having already planned how to combine autonomous behaviours with a human operator so our robot could predict and avoid collisions, we started research into behavioural algorithms. At the same time, we begun training on roles and responsibilities for the development of the FR competition robot. We want to use this robot to test our collision prediction and avoidance solution that we are aiming to build. To support algorithm development and testing, we also completed mini-bot builds. With the planning complete, our team split in two. The FIRST robot team began designing the competition robot, while the geekStarter team continued learning behavioural programming and started working with sensors. The FIRST team had 6 weeks to design, order materials and build the robot. They used Computer Aided Design (CAD) to model the robot’s physical components and estimate the raw materials required for building it. Based on this, they decided to use Aluminum and ordered all the materials included the electronics systems and propulsion components. Meanwhile, the team continued to use CAD to refine and get the final dimensions of the robot’s components in preparation for cutting and shaping the Aluminum parts. The actual construction started in week four of the six week period allowed for build. With the build stop date approaching, the team knuckled down, finishing up at 10 pm on the last day, February 20th. As the FRC robot build progressed, the geekStarter team evaluated different sensors for object detection and object tracking, and eventually settled on using infrared sensors and acoustic sensors, respectively. Typically, acoustic sensors have a high background noise and work inconsistently. Therefore,...
Spotlight on geekStarters: Innovations Club at Ross Sheppard High School

Spotlight on geekStarters: Innovations Club at Ross Sheppard High School

Flight mission – Photo of Ross Sheppard team members taken by their FPV drone Check out this recent interview with the robotics team from Ross Sheppard High School in Edmonton, and learn about their plans for the 2017-18 season and beyond. • What is unique about your team? Any memorable moments? We have the freedom to be creative and build hands on electronic projects. A recent memorable moment: During our recent open house, we were showing off some of our drones. One of our team members tested the speed of one of the drones by flying it as fast as he could towards a teacher’s stomach. Important side note: The teacher was willing and prepared for the test! Unfortunately, the tester had forgotten to change one of the settings and the drone didn’t stop. Instead, it bounced off the teacher’s stomach and then the wall, returning to its flight in the hallway unscathed!! There was a crowd of parents and prospective students watching and they all thought it was part of the act!! It all turned out very funny and very dramatic! • How would you describe your team’s project in 3 sentences or less? We utilize 3D printing and open source materials, such as instructions, code and 3D printing files, to build and program self driving racing cars, drones, and rockets with self deploying parachutes. • What has been one highlight of working on your project so far? Capturing aerial footage using our drone. • What is your team’s biggest challenge? Troubleshooting code! Our self driving cars, and the ball following car didn’t work right away. The open source code needed to be de-bugged before it worked. Once the self driving car is operational, we will continue to modify the code and...

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: Chris Isaac

Spotlight on geekStarters: Chris Isaac

Chris Isaac – member of ULethbridge iGEM team and dedicated geekStarter mentor – shares tips for designing successful bioengineering projects at the Lab skills workshop held at University of Lethbridge in March 2017   10 Quick Questions for Chris How would you describe yourself in one sentence? Something along the lines of a jack of all trades and a master of none: picking up the skills I need to know as I go. What do you love the most about your work/school? Having recently begun my Master’s at the University of Lethbridge, I most enjoy the freedom associated with studying at a higher level. While you have objectives that need to be met in your research program, it’s also possible to enjoy the full support of faculty in pursuing additional academic projects even if they don’t perfectly align with your supervisor’s laboratory goals. What is your best accomplishment so far? Most recently, I had the good fortune to collaborate with wonderful people on the Lethbridge Collegiate iGEM team while working on a fantastic project. As a result of our efforts, we were nominated for several awards at the international level. I’m very proud of our team and the part that I played in helping us to that success. What is something you are working towards right now? There are always several irons in the fire, but there are two really cool things happening right now. The first is my academic research into picking apart disease pathways that are common to both Alzheimer Disease and Cancer. The second is a personal research project wherein I develop software to address biosecurity concerns in order to keep...