BioBuilder® is an open-access website offering informative animations and activities for anyone who wants to teach or learn about synthetic biology.
Started in 2007 at MIT, BioBuilder was created under the direction of Natalie Kuldell in response to numerous requests for synthetic biology learning materials from policy makers, environmental groups, and members of the media needing to know more about the basic biology involved, as well as scientists wanting to know more about engineering aspects of the field.
Inspired by successful animation-based educational efforts such as “BrainPOP” and “Adventures in Synthetic Biology,” BioBuilder was populated with short, animated narratives, mostly showing the interaction between a lab scientist, Systems Sally, and an excited young learner, Device Dude. Their brainstorming sessions at the whiteboard and in the laboratory teach topics relevant to synthetic biology: “science,” “engineering,” “technology” and “community”. By design, there is no strict storyline connecting the narratives so that visitors can explore topics of individual interest in whatever order they wish.
The animations also support a more formal curriculum aimed at the advanced high school/early college level. One-page “bioprimers,” freely available on BioBuilder, link to relevant animations. The final frame of the bioprimer offers a hands-on activity that corresponds easily to most advanced biology curricula in high schools, community colleges, and undergraduate programs.
Teachers and students have separate but connected points of entry into the curricular materials. Lab activities and tutorials are hosted on the OpenWetWare wiki, and reagents can be requested through the “ask us” link. Teachers and students should upload the data generated from these activities to compare their work with others in the BioBuilder community.
BioBuilder should be a “one stop shop” for students to meander through the animations to learn new aspects of the field, and for teachers to find start-to-finish class activities to integrate into their biology curriculum.
Data-sharing and discussion is key for this emerging community, so please follow the upload procedures and posting policies.