High School Education
All Center educational goals are focused on the mission of driving a new field of engineering based on building cells and building with cells. To do this we need to create awareness, in academia and in the public, of the cell as something that can be engineered, and also to train a new generation of engineers comfortable with using the cell as an engineering medium.
We believe that cellular engineering provides a way to inject concepts of engineering into traditional biological curricula at all levels, including K-12. A major component of our educational plan has been to develop high school curricula based on an engineering view of cells. To these ends, we have developed a two week hands-on "bootcamp," called the Cellular Construction Workshop, for high school science teachers and their students. Teachers and students attend the course as co-learners and use LEGO mindstorms robots as a platform to solve problems inspired by the challenges that living cells face. This course introduces learners to the idea of an engineering design-build-test cycle while simultaneously teaching attendees how us computer programming to accomplish complex tasks. In parallel, attendees perform simple experiments to explore cellular behavior, investigating phenomena such as phototaxis in Volvox (or photophobia in Stentor), chemotaxis by Physarum, and self-assembly in Hydra. Participants also perform genetic transformation of bacteria, introducing them to the idea that this procedure “reprograms” the cells – introducing new genetic code that enables the cells to make new protein products that themselves may influence cellular structure of function supporting the analogy of cells as biological machines. Hence students with pre-existing interest in engineering are exposed to the excitement of cell biology in a context that they can relate to.
Over its first three summers, the Cellular Construction workshop has engaged 44 students and 23 teachers from seven different school districts in the San Francisco Bay Area. Notably, the majority of teachers who participated brought the experiences from the workshop to their classrooms. Many of these teachers integrated design challenges that required programming and robotics to model cellular behavior into their curricula.
Browse our high school curriculum here.