CBR-Genome BC Collaboration at Girls and STEAM Symposium and Showcase

By Lily Takeuchi & Fennie Easton van der Graaf, CBR Outreach Committee, and Eva Yap, Educational Outreach Coordinator, Genome BC Geneskool

Genome BC Geneskool Showcase Booth, Photo credit: Genome BC

On Saturday November 3rd, 2018, aspiring young scientists, engineers, and thought leaders came from all across BC for the Girls and STEAM Symposium and Showcase. The event took place at TELUS World of Science and represented over 20 Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts and design, and Mathematics (STEAM) representative institutions, companies, and organizations. The event launched BC’s Girls and STEAM week, announced by MLA Bowinn Ma, to advocate for science literacy and empower elementary school girls to develop confidence, pursue their curiosity, and spark their excitement in STEAM fields. The Centre for Blood Research (CBR) and Genome British Columbia (Genome BC) collaborated to showcase the exciting applications of genetics and genomics and blood research techniques.

Keynote speaker Ann Makosinski

The morning began with inspiring speeches from accomplished women in STEAM fields. We met Ann Makosinski, the 21 year old inventor and TEDx presenter who explained how science and art intertwine to make the best discoveries like a hand-powered flashlight. We also heard from Bowinn Ma regarding how she overcame the challenges involved with being a minority female civil engineer which led her to become an exceptional leader in BC’s transportation system and politics.

Throughout the day, a variety of representatives from STEAM organizations ran showcase booths featuring innovative new projects and discussed the diversity of careers in STEAM. Genome BC’s showcase booth was staffed by a group of all-female undergraduate and graduate trainees with academic backgrounds in life sciences. Volunteers engaged girls in meaningful discussions about genetics and genomics through making DNA code bracelets. In this activity, the girls were tasked with spelling their names using DNA. They did this with the help of a table that matched amino acids, represented by letters of the alphabet, with their respective DNA codon. In addition to the DNA code bracelet activity, the girls also had the option to make a DNA double helix origami, which served as a good starting point for conversations about the DNA structure.

CBR Outreach member, Dr. Umme Amara facilitating the Crime Scene Investigation workshop

In the afternoon session, Genome BC and CBR hosted a “Crime Scene Investigation” collaborative workshop based on real life laboratory techniques employed in forensic science. Two workshops were held consecutively throughout the afternoon session and attended by forty girls. During the workshops, the girls had the exciting opportunity to gain hands-on experience in matching blood types from suspects to the crime scene and learn about how DNA fingerprinting can be used to uniquely identify individuals. The girls were curious, enthusiastic, and determined analyzers as they examined evidence to find out who to convict for the fictitious murder mystery!

Overall, this event was a fantastic interplay of today’s leaders, empowering the leaders of tomorrow. This event was an opportunity for pioneers in STEAM to communicate science in an effective and engaging way to the next generation. It also propelled our goal to facilitate the integration of STEAM into society through enhancing STEAM literacy among our youth.

Special thanks to Science World at Telus World of Science, all of the volunteers, and the organizing committee for such a successful event! To learn more about future Girls and STEAM events visit: https://www.scienceworld.ca/girls-steam

CBR Outreach Committee and Science World Volunteers, Photo credit: Genome BC

The girls performing a blood typing experiment and figuring out who the suspect is during the workshop