Quick Post: DIY Biology and Design Thinking

I wanted to quickly share two sources of inspiration.  I’m reading a book called Biopunk.  You are probably familiar with the stories of Steve Jobs and Bill Gates.  Brilliance disguised as uninterested students; sequestered to home garages to innovate the personal computing age.  They “hacked” a scientific revolution.  Now imagine a similar story, but instead of hacking circuit boards they are hacking their own DNA or medical devices.  This underground DIY Bio culture is happening and is the basis for Biopunk.  From the book description:

You’ll meet a new breed of hackers who aren’t afraid to get their hands wet, from entrepreneurs who aim to bring DNA-based medical tools to the poorest of the poor to a curious tinkerer who believes a tub of yogurt and a jellyfish gene could protect the world’s food supply. These biohackers include:

– A duo who started a cancer drug company in their kitchen
– A team who built an open-source DNA copy machine
– A woman who developed a genetic test in her apartment for a deadly disease that had stricken her family

It’s fascinating, check it out.  If it’s too close to the end of summer to start a new read, do yourself a favor and watch this episode of “The Next List” from CNN.  Jose Gomez-Marquez uses component parts from toy stores – legos, a motor from a toy helicopter, silly putty, and bicycle pumps – to create medical devices that are effective and affordable for the poorest and most remote areas of the world.  Jose explains that he uses smart recombination (the using existing technologies and engineering design in new ways) to innovate affordable medical options.  He “tinkered” with his ideas as a hobby, and then went on to enter and win MIT’s Idea competition 3 times.  A doctor that Jose works with says Jose moves rapidly from an idea to prototyping and has an ear for problems of third world doctors and patients.  Sound much like bias towards action and empathy?    My wheels are turning now, how might we make a lesson plan that captures the spirit of DIY Bio?


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