IGEM Outreach:Introduction to Engineering Projects

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Introductory Engineering Group Projects

  • Suitable for: high school students who want to explore engineering!
  • From the Cornell 2011 iGEM team's volunteer work for Cornell's CURIE program

CURIE is a one-week summer program for high school girls who are interested in science and engineering. These girls were invited to Cornell to gain experience in a laboratory working on research-inspired projects. These projects were designed to exercise their ability to problem solve and troubleshoot as they worked towards their goal. Cornell iGEM lead the “Bio Boot Camp” session on the first day of the program, teaching the students basic lab techniques (pipetting small volumes, plating bacteria, running a PCR gel) as well as showing them some of the equipment in the laboratory. During the week that followed, Cornell iGEMers worked as teaching assistants with small teams of students on the following group projects:


Project Descriptions

Microvascular Chip: The girls used a microfluidic chip to model blood flow in small capillaries. They measured baseline flow speeds by taking videos through the laboratory’s microscopes and calculated the resistance in each channel from the flow speeds and channel diameters. Then they plugged one channel to simulate a blood clot and measured the changes in flow speed and channel resistance. Using resistance as an analogy for an electrical circuit, students then calculated the flow speeds that they expected to find based on simple physics and compared their findings to expected results. This project was framed in the context of modeling a small stroke, but it could be also used to model many biological systems involving blood flow in small capillaries.

Wireless Combo Lock: In this project, the girls pre-programmed a hardwired code into the receiver. They then used a remote that they constructed to translate parallel data input into the remote into a serial stream of four bits. The remote would translate this 4 bit code into flashes of IR from an IR LED. The receiver (synced to the same clock as the remote) would take in the serial data and convert it into a parallel signal. The received code is compared to the transmitted code using combinational logic gates in a comparitor topology they designed. If this code matches the hardwired code, it would trigger a flag LED that would stay lit until reset was pressed. This signal can be used to, say, unlock a door, change a channel, send a secure single bit text message, etc. This was by far the most technical project.

Sun Tracker: The goal was to make a system that could rotate to face the brightest light source in the room. This was accomplished by feeding two photodiodes into a op amp comparator network that allowed for a threshold. Once one diode was a certain threshold above the other, a stepper motor control signal was formed using a shift register. This would make the stepper motor always rotate towards the brighter direction. Once both diodes were looking at equal brightness, the stepper motor would stop rotating. BOOM! Sun tracking. Potential applications: Solar panels with higher efficiency; fans that rotate towards the hottest point of the room; security cameras that rotate to follow a person.