About the challenge
Synthetic biology is the engineering of biology: the synthesis of complex systems, biologically inspired or based, which display functions that do not exist in nature. Among its potential applications is the creation of bioengineered microorganisms that can produce pharmaceuticals, detect chemicals, break down pollutants, repair defective genes, destroy cancer cells, generate hydrogen, etc.
Synthetic biology has the potential to bring about epochal changes in medicine, agriculture, industry, ethics. It is crucial to engage not just practitioners and politicians, but the whole society in the debate about how best to guide this research field in a safe and socially useful direction. Gamification is one of the strategies to engage communities and people in science projects. Thus, the aim of the challenge is to engage people with synthetic biology through gaming.
About the challenge provider
MUSE, the science museum of Trento, is in charge of the dissemination and communication activities of the European project ACDC – Artificial Cells with Distributed Cores, a Horizon 2020 project* whose aim is to construct responsive architectures and metabolism based on living cells and tissues.
In this context, the museum wants to organize a challenge to involve students in the reflections and discussion about the advancements in synthetic biology and artificial life, to better understand and address the challenges of this scientific frontier.
*This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under Grant Agreement No 824060
According to the objective and type of game, players could be pupils, teachers, scientists, politicians, funders, company leaders as well as families, teenagers, science lovers, etc.
Quantify the need
MUSE has an extensive catalog of educational activities aimed at kindergarten, primary and secondary schools but no structured programme of activities addressed to university students. Occasionally trainings and activities are organized to answer a specific request from university professors, and these activities are usually highly appreciated. Events directed to a university audience are very well attended, as can be inferred from the number of participants at the European researchers’ night (2017 edition: 2975, 2018 edition: 2930, 2019 edition: 2928, 2021 edition 1264).
These numbers suggest that more events and activities dedicated to university students should be organized, in particular events that allow participants to engage with cutting-edge scientific research. With this challenge it will therefore be possible to involve the target group of university students in an engaging and active way in the research carried out by the ACDC project.
Science is critically important for advancing economics, health, and social well-being and plays a key role in fostering sustainable communities, in an advanced democracy scientific literacy is a skill required by citizens.
Science education can be improved by incorporating key features of games that influence motivation, cognition, and metacognition. Using gamification can be of aid in cognitive and physical development and can be a tool to educate students of all needs. Gamification increases the level of engagement and enhances the learning process for students at all academic levels.
The science museum in Trento believes in this approach and has organised several events using games to communicate scientific concepts such as:
- Days at the museum dedicated to games (eg: PlayMUSE , MUSE Summertime , Play with Space)
- A module dedicated to gamification in the MSc in Science communication at the University of Modena and Reggio Emilia
Assessment and expectations
The next question concerns the impact that will be created by solving the challenge. Potential for impact on an individual and societal level.
Students will be asked to invent a game focusing on the mechanism, challenges, opportunities and risks of synthetic biology. This could be a board game, a card game, an outdoor game with physical activities, a role-playing game or a videogame. Teams should define the target, the number of players, the game mode, the goal and the rules and a business model for their product. Teams will then present their project in front of a jury and the best project could eventually be implemented and become an educational activity of the museum.
The next question concerns the resources related to the challenge.
UniTrento will share the CBL methodology.
MUSE will host the hackathon and offer spaces, equipments, and expertise.
Scientists within ACDC network (University of Trento, University of Cardiff, Zurich University of Applied Sciences) will provide participants with an overview of synthetic biology and its applications.
Game experts from Ludo Labo (www.ludolabo.com) will give participants information about different types of games and how to design one.
Participation, interaction with students, final prize during the hackathon in person.
During the final event members of the ACDC project and from Ludo Labo will supervise students in the “final preparation” of the prototype of game, giving them advices and solving their doubts.
Learning offering details
(changes may apply)
|16-19||Thu||03/11||Training on synthetic biology#1||Online|
|16-19||Tue||08/11||Training on gamification#1||Online|
|17-19||Tue||15/11||Mentorship and Feedback: Teams meet the mentors||Online|
|16||Thu||17/11||Welcome to Trento (ECIU and ACDC students only)||in Trento|
|10-12||Fri||18/11||City and University Tour (ECIU and ACDC students only)||in Trento|
|16-16||Fri-Sat||18-19/11||24 hours final event will be held at the MUSE||in Trento|
Language requirement: English B2 Level, CEFR
Kick-off, trainings, and mentorship are online. The hackathon is in presence in Trento. ECIU students ask for funding information at their home University.