BioDesign for Young Innovators

BioBuilderClub engages high school teams around the world who use synthetic biology to develop novel biotechnologies.  We support teams through monthly online group meetings and newsletters, STEM mentors, and a nationally recognized platform in March to exhibit projects at any stage of completion, from pitch to prototype.

All new U.S. teams receive the BioBuilder textbook, a laboratory kit, and support during the academic year from remote scientist mentors.

Our Mission

Our rallying cry is “all you need is a good idea and we’ll teach you the engineering to bring it to life.” BioBuilderClub increases student access to authentic tools and approaches for engineering biology. Within biodesign teams, budding scientists develop meaningful projects that address real-world challenges. Students may explore ideas in partnership with practicing mentor scientists and engineers in academia, government, and industry.

Frequently Asked Questions

Find answers to frequently asked questions about BioBuilderClub here. If you can’t find the answers here please feel free to contact us.

What are the benefits of joining the BioBuilderClub?

BioBuilderClub offers current biological engineering challenges so that students may experience scientific problem-solving in the context of authentic and meaningful investigations.

Students feel like real scientists and may envision themselves as innovators who will change the world. STEM mentors serve as an important resource for teams, and provide a real-world glimpse into the possibilities of STEM research and careers.

BioBuilderClub also empowers teachers to be agents of educational reform by reconnecting them with their love of teaching and their own love of learning.

Teams work toward projects to be shared with the BioBuilderClub community at the annual “Final Assembly” event in March. Virtual and in-person attendance, along with electronic posterboards provide for wide exposure and positive feedback from student peers and scientists. Some teams choose to work toward publication in a synthetic biology journal for high school students.

What can participating teams expect?

  • First-year U.S. teams will receive a “welcome kit” that includes a copy of the BioBuilder textbook and, for US teams, a lab kit to carry out a bacterial transformation. Returning teams will receive the BioBuilder e-book and, for US teams, an option for a kit refill.
  • Access to free reagents from New England BioLabs is available by request.
  • October kick-off event, four virtual group meetings and a March “Final Assembly” event, all of which will be accessible virtually or in person for teams who may travel to Cambridge, MA.
  • A STEM mentor specifically assigned to support the team with their project ideas.
  • Monthly newsletters featuring profiles of BioBuilderClub participants and STEM mentors, journal articles, and news / opportunities relevant to high school teams.

Who’s on a team?

We welcome large or small teams (3 to 20+ members) comprised of high school students and one or two high school teachers as team leaders.

What does it cost to participate?

Early bird registration for those who register by September 30

First-year participants: $250 – includes mailed BioBuilder book and kit

Second-year participants: $200 – includes BioBuilder e-book and kit refill

Third-year+ participants: $150 – includes BioBuilder e-book and kit refill.

$50 registration fee if no kit refill is requested.

Registration fees as of October 1:

$300 for all teams.

Late Registration fees after October Kick-off event:

$400 for all teams

What will I need to get started?

The BioBuilderClub welcomes all teams, regardless of access to molecular biology laboratory facilities.

For teams wanting to DESIGN a biotechnology, you will need:

  • A teacher to lead the club.
  • At least one student to participate.
  • A good idea.
  • Some understanding of DNA as the coding language for cells.
  • Access to a computer and the internet.

For teams wanting to DESIGN and BUILD a biotechnology, you will need:
All the above plus…

  • Some basic biology laboratory equipment such as glassware, pipets, a water bath or heat block to heat samples, an ice bucket or styrofoam cup to cool samples, 4C fridge and ice-cold freezer (ideally to -20C) to store samples, a stir plate to mix samples, and an incubator to grow samples (though room temperature can work too). Some experiments might need a chemical hood, depending on what you are building.
  • Some basic consumable laboratory equipment such as pipet tips, plastic tubes, growth media, petri dishes, toothpicks, spreaders, sterile loops, bleach or the like for decontamination and disposal of bioreagents.

For teams wanting to DESIGN and BUILD and TEST a biotechnology, you will need:
All the above plus…

  • Some additional basic biology laboratory equipment such as electrophoresis chambers, spectrophotometer, and PCR machine.
  • Some additional consumable laboratory equipment such as gel running buffers, loading buffers, stains to visualize DNA or proteins, cuvettes, PCR master mix, autoclave for sterilizing reagents.

Regardless of a team’s goals, all participants will need to submit a media/photo release and liability consent form. A team photo is requested and all students will be asked to complete a pre- and post- survey form.

How are teams supported?

From Kickoff to Final Assembly, teams are supported with in-person and online expertise to guide their work. For teams who want to build their project ideas, New England BioLabs provides some free reagents. Beyond those materials and the BioBuilder kit sent to new participants, each team is responsible for supplying lab materials should they want to build their project idea.

I'm a working scientist or engineer. How do I get involved as a volunteer mentor?

Please contact us to sign up as BioBuilderClub mentor.

Mentors include grad students, post docs, and scientists in the field. Mentors primarily serve as a resource for teams, particularly as they work toward their project to be exhibited at the Final Assembly in March.

The minimum time contribution expected of mentors is approximately 1 hour per month (October – December), and 2 hours per month (January – March), which may include team calls and email correspondence.

Mentors primarily serve as a resource for teams, particularly as they work toward their project to be exhibited at the Final Assembly in March. Most mentoring occurs virtually, due to the diverse geographic locations in which both teams and mentors are located. Mentors are matched with teams in mid-November.

You can sign up as a BioBuilderClub mentor here.
Or contact us with any questions.