Engaging Kids in Environmental Issues using Open Science

Workshop Series on Practical use of the Public Lab kit at the MboaLab

This post was originally posted by the Public Lab

MboaLab as community Lab and makerspace always pays attention to the needs of local populations and strives to empower them with the tools they need to tackle their own problems. This vision is aligned with Public Lab efforts of democratizing science to address environmental issues that affect people. It is under these circumstances that we have received some equipment from the Public Lab, to investigate environmental issues related to our context.

The educational environment being a powerful vehicle for raising awareness and commitment to climate issues; Mboalab, therefore decided to organize a workshop on 19 and 20 November, for some primary schools in the village of Mefou-Assi (Yaoundé, Cameroon). During the workshop, students had the occasion to learn, mount and use: the Community MicroscopeLego Spectrometer as well as the Papercraft Spectrometer.

Using Community Microscopes 

The day I of the workshop was focused on microscopy, primary grade children and their teachers were given basic notions on its use. Immediately after the very interactive course, assembled in groups, participants started mounting their own community microscopes.
The interest that the community microscope arose in these students was so great that they decided to take action by tackling the problem of water quality. Children took us on a tour around their village and the water sources used to collect drinking water. Water samples from the various sources were collected and we all rushed back to the Lab to analyse it using the community microscope they built. We will never forget the astonishment on their faces when they saw moving shapes in live inside the water they use to drink and use.  It might seem strange and odd for many people but access to safe and sufficient drinking water under acceptable, assessable and affordable economic circumstances remains a major problem in Africa and Cameroon is a good example.

DIY Spectrometers 

Day two was more focused on spectrometry, we had to use more specific and tailor-made examples to capture the attention of the children and explain the principles and application of this relatively difficult to understand science. In the end, children were very receptive and
curious. Similarly to Day I, we started with a brief course and proceeded with having every one mounting the Lego spectrometer. A competition was also organised to see which group will finish first and a record of twenty minutes was observed.

We then went on, bringing out scissors, glue, CDs and sharing the paper craft photometer and the foldable mini spectrometer, after two hours of intensive practical session, fully functional DIY spectrometers were in the hands of the children. The plan was to use these to analyse drinking water from the various sources by using the spectral work bench website to capture the spectral graph of collected water and compare it to the one of mineral water.

In conclusion the “Public Lab workshop” organised in MboaLab was very fruitful one for everyone. Children had the occasion to use DIY tools to observe and investigate an issue that matters a lot to them. It also raised new insights and prospects for future work for the Public Lab, and from feedback we had from teacher participants and even parents, such events that trigger the creativity and involve local population are to be multiplied in the future.

Open Enzyme manufacturing

Access to cheap and assorted kinds of enzymes is crucial for the development of a sustainable biobased economy. Excluding the cost of purchasing and shipping of molecular biology reagents and the occasional batch of enzymes that become inactive during transport resulting in experiments often being scale back and delayed; Another challenge for global labs lies in the fact that most biotechnology supplies need continuous access to refrigeration – known as a cold chain – from when they leave a warehouse to when they arrive at a lab. The lack of access to these enzymes is preventing entire regions, especially developing nations, from participating in the biotech economy.
As one of the main projects of MboaLab biotech, in collaboration with the Open Bioeconmy Lab, the Open Enzyme manufacturing project is a large-scale project aimed at solving the reagents access problem in Africa and the global south through research and capacity building for researchers and scientists. The idea is to use genetically modified bacteria to produce enzymes locally for research purposes. By enabling researchers to produce their own enzymes within days, we believe that the distribution will become simpler, less costly and more accessible to people worldwide.
Through the creation of an essential and open-source toolkit to cheaply produce good-quality enzymes that most molecular biologists and the synthetic biologist would be using on a daily basis, we want to provide molecular-biology researchers across the world with rapid and affordable access to molecular-biology tools. So, for every single part of the pathway of creating an enzyme we are trying to find ways to do it cheaper, faster, and easier.

For all these reasons,

we are so proud to be part of Beneficial Bio


Our Story – Beneficial.Bio

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Our Story

Beneficial Bio is a network of social enterprises run by biologists. Our goal is to help labs around the world secure reagents quickly and economically.

We founded our network because as biologists ourselves, we were tired of paying too much for reagents that took too long to arrive and didn’t serve our needs.

We knew this wasn’t just a problem in our own labs, but also in resource-limited labs around the world. And if we were going to help the world use biotechnology to benefit society, we needed a better way to procure reagents and keep our projects moving.

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There are plenty of reasons to count on us:

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Beneficial Bio was founded by scientists like you. We are here to support the growth of research in biology and biotechnology wherever the current supply chain is limiting its potential.

We believe there is a better way that can offer researchers like you the means to do your best science and we invite you to join us.

Contact Beneficial Bio now to start accelerating your research

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Nadine is a microbiologist and molecular biology researcher exploring open source research tools and methods in resource limited settings.


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