Planet DNA goes to Cheltenham!


Last week we took Bioprospecting On Mars on the road with a new updated hardware (but the same fundamentals) to Cheltenham science festival! The aim of the game to educate the young and old about how changing DNA sequences underlie different species, and how we can process those sequences and decode them to find the species and genetics it comes from.

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Is it really science communication if you don’t gesticulate wildly?

Installed for 6 days, we had over 9,000 attendees to our tent, including school trips, the general public and the Friday night event for 18+, and had a consistent stream of enthusiastic individuals of all ages! It took 3 of us manning the stall at all times to handle the students hunting for the 12bp DNA sequences, decoding them into the raspberry pi computer (which has all keys except A, T, C & G removed), and then talking to them about the implications of those species:

  • How could Rhizosphere bacteria be useful in growing plants?
  • What does it mean that you found Salmonella enterica in the Astronaut kitchen?
  • Is it important that we found Human DNA? Other humans on the planet or did you contaminate your sample?
  • Why is there a DNA sequence for Jar Jar Binks?


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The Maker-shack in its glory

If you want to see more photos and a making of, check out this link, or to see the coding and resources for the raspberry pi see the PlanetDNA github or the full documentation to go along with the DNA Guess who activity.