As the field of synthetic biology expands, the need to grow and train science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) practitioners is essential. However, the lack of access to hands-on demonstrations has led to inequalities of opportunity and practice. In addition, there is a gap in providing content that enables students to make their own bioengineered systems. To address these challenges, we develop four shelf-stable cell-free biosensing educational modules that work by simply adding water and DNA to freeze-dried crude extracts of non-pathogenic Escherichia coli. We introduce activities and supporting curricula to teach the structure and function of the lac operon, dose-responsive behavior, considerations for biosensor outputs, and a “build-your-own” activity for monitoring environmental contaminants in water. We piloted these modules with K-12 teachers and 130 high-school students in their classrooms─and at home─without professional laboratory equipment. This work promises to catalyze access to interactive synthetic biology education opportunities.
- lac operon
- synthetic biology
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology (miscellaneous)
- Biomedical Engineering