The Biobuilder Foundation
The BioBuilder Educational Foundation is a recently launched public benefit organization that converts cutting-edge research into modular teaching materials. Lessons are delivered through web-based animations, through in-class and laboratory activities, and finally through a community forum for the exchange of data and best practices. This new model for science and engineering education has been described as “paradigm shifting” by teachers who have implemented the content. They describe their students as “enlightened and amazed by the ideas they encountered.” The materials, developed through a grant from the National Science Foundation to MIT’s Department of Biological Engineering, are currently focused in the area of synthetic biology, a new area of biological research that combines science and engineering. Future efforts in other subjects, such as physics or math, are also intended. Already being applied to US advanced high school classes, early college settings, and adult educational communities, the BioBuilder content is also suitable for international training programs and additional informal educational venues.
The audience for the BioBuilder content is organically growing, and there are many facets that a student could address to accelerate and ease the adoption of the curriculum. For example, teachers are often limited by the cost of laboratory equipment and a student could impact many under-resourced teaching settings by developing low-cost alternatives to equipment like roller drums for growing cells. Alternatively, they could contact industrial and corporate partners to explore equipment lending programs. In other settings there is equipment and space but no easy plan for "showcasing" the content so it can be displayed to administrators and superintendents of schools. A student could play a key role in the development of a hands-on set-up that communicates the science, engineering and excitement of this field. Finally, a student who has a background in biology and/or biological engineering could help develop teaching slide decks (e.g. using CamStudio, http://camstudio.org/) that might enable and inspire teachers to introduce the foundational concepts that are the underpinnings of the activities housed at BioBuilder.org. These teaching materials could enrich the high school/college level curriculum that already exists or they could be the kernels of the middle-school outreach program that is slated to begin in the Summer of 2013.
The ideal candidate must be passionate about education. Candidate must have outstanding interpersonal skills, a positive attitude, capacity to work effectively, independently, and be a strong team player. Excellent organizational skills are necessary. Candidate must be results oriented. Must be comfortable with open-ended assignments that require independent, creative thought and be able to create functioning structures out of a wide variety of project components. Candidate must be comfortable working from his or her own location using Web and other tools to communicate with the BioBuilder founders.
These needs are general. There's always SO much to do.
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MIT students who develop projects around these ideas may apply for support from the Public Service Center's Internships program. Please check the program descriptions and deadlines and talk to program staff to determine which is most appropriate for your needs and project.
If you want to volunteer or you have funding from outside the PSC that enables you to work on this project, that's great! However, please do let us know if you work on a project you saw advertised here, even if you don't use our funds. And remember, the PSC staff are happy to advise on service projects even if we are not funding them ourselves.