Cornell iGEM

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Community Outreach

Ithaca Sciencenter

The Ithaca Sciencenter is an interactive science museum designed to engage people of all ages with hands-on activities and exhibitions. Visitors may learn from the over 250 exhibitions, the seasonal outdoor playground, and other educational programs that the museum offers.

We came into the Sciencenter one afternoon to work with young children and their parents on activities focused on learning about genetics. We worked with the kids helping them “build-a-bug” using a coin to determine the genetics, and therefore the appearance, of the bug. For some of the older kids who participated, we helped them extract strawberry DNA using household chemicals. It was a pleasure to see the kids interact with real DNA for the first time.

Tompkins County Public Library

Each summer the Tompkins County Public Library hosts Community Reads. This summer, participants read a murder mystery novel. We came into one of their meetings and gave a short presentation on the general structure of DNA, as well as the importance of genetic uniqueness for solving murder cases. We explained the basics on RFLP (Restriction Fragment Length Polymorphism), a technique that allows scientists to drastically narrow down a list of suspects just by comparing parts of their DNA. The material we covered provided a hands-on demonstration to the audience of the potential of molecular biological techniques to yield tangible improvements to the human condition.