geekStarter Community Highlights – March 2017

Updates from our Synthetic Biology Teams

The Lab skills workshop in Lethbridge has been a great success! The lab and classroom sessions, as well as the new speaker seminars, added much value to the teams’ projects and advanced students’ knowledge and skills. Below are brief highlights the teams shared with us. Enjoy!

ULethbridge host and team advisor Brian Dempsey doing lab orientation with teams

ULethbridge workshop host and team advisor Brian Dempsey doing lab orientation with teams

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Mentor David Lloyd talks about responsible practices in synthetic biology at the Lab skills workshop in Lethbridge


Mentor Dennis Kim and OLS team members at their lab bench

The SynBio team from Our Lady of the Snows Catholic Academy in Canmore moved forward on several fronts in Lethbridge.

In the lab, the OLS SynBio team gained hands-on practice with standard laboratory protocols. By the end of the weekend they had confirmation that the protocols worked and they had successfully put a new DNA program into bacterial cells. The team has also tested the Amino Labs’ kit for turning bacteria blue, as well as the Bio-painting and Puzzle Pipetting activities they will be showcasing on their upcoming educational outreach roadshow. The team used classroom time to discuss project ideas and design with their team mentors. They’ve settled on designing a synthetic biology project for making textiles from recycled plastics in a most cost-effective way possible, and much of the discussion revolved around methods for reaching out to a large diversity of people connected with the plastics industries.

OLS team member loading DNA on a gel

OLS team member loading DNA on a gel


Mentor Emily Hicks with team members from Notre Dame Collegiate

Mentor Emily Hicks with team members from Notre Dame Collegiate

Notre Dame Collegiate Syn Bio team from High River made a lot of progress at the recent lab skills workshop in Lethbridge.

The team used some of the time in the lab to troubleshoot experiments they had done prior to the workshop. This helped them identify the reason why some of the lab protocols had failed to work in their own school lab. They also ran through the standard laboratory protocols to ensure they would be able to successfully replicate them in their own school lab. In the classroom, the team focused on research for their project on natural family planning using an ovulation-detection system. They identified the DNA sequence for the receptor of the Luteinizing Hormone (LH) and learned about the receptor’s function. Then they identified the roadblocks of putting this receptor into bacteria and started researching ways for overcoming the roadblocks. After looking into at least six possible solutions, they settled on two of the solutions, which they’ll investigate further at their school. While learning valuable research techniques throughout the weekend, the students built resiliency as they identified issues with each solution and continued to search for new ways to tackle the problem they had set out to solve.

Notre Dame Collegiate team members working with a bacterial culture

Notre Dame Collegiate team members working with a bacterial culture


Updates from our Robotics Teams

FR robots bag & tag day was Feb 21

FR robots bag & tag day was Feb 21

The robotics teams in Fort McMurray are busy preparing for FRC – Western Canada Regionals.

Although their robots still needed some work, like all the other FR teams, the Fort McMurray teams had to stop building them on February 21. However, before packing the robots away, the teams were allowed to remove the electronics so they could practice and fine tune the programming. Teams were also permitted to fabricate additional items (up to 30lbs), which they can use to improve their robots’ performance at the competition. To this end, the teams are working feverishly to build their ball intakes, lift systems and ball shooters. In the weeks leading to the competition, the teams will receive specialized training from an engineer working at Shell.