iTune Device Lab

Teacher Considerations

iTune Device activity

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iTunes Lab Quick Guide

View Lab Quick Guide

iTunes Poster

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This lab focuses on predictable design. Students will examine the role of parts, such as promoters and ribosome binding sites, in determining the output of a genetic device. The students measure b-galactosidase enzymatic activity as the device’s output, enabling them to look through the lens of molecular genetics to evaluate a device’s behavior. Students study transcription, translation, the lac operon and enzyme function within a synthetic biology context. Part 1 of the lab offers an opportunity for the students to develop microbiology skills, though this procedure may be done by the teacher if time is an issue. In Part 2, the students lyse the cells to release the β-galactosidase enzyme and then carry out a timed enzymatic reaction, later calculating the enzyme activity associated with each genetic construct.

Download poster for the lab

Download Quick Guide for the lab

Download Chapter 7: iTune Device, from the BioBuilder Textbook

Sample Unit Plans

Some helpful background content and skills


  • DNA Basics: what it is and how it works
  • Gene Expression: Transcription, Translation, Operons
  • Recombinant DNA: Restriction enzymes, cloning, selection with antibiotic resistance


  • Pipetting
  • Measuring cell density with a spectrophotometer
  • Basic microbiology skills: Culturing bacteria, Aseptic technique, Antibiotic resistance, Population dynamics
Some lab materials to have on hand
  • HARDWARE: Some basic biology laboratory equipment such as glassware, pipets, a water bath or heat block to heat samples, an icebucket 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 additional experiments might need a chemical hood, electrophoresis chambers, spectrophotometer, or a PCR machine.
  • CONSUMABLES: 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. Some additional experiments might need additional consumables such as gel running buffers, loading buffers, stains to visualize DNA or proteins, cuvettes, PCR master mix, or an autoclave for sterilizing reagents.

BioBuilder Classroom

Here are some activity specific materials you can use in addition to the more general resources you'll find on the "Teacher Resources" page.


Download Chapter 7: iTune Device, from the BioBuilder Textbook


Download Intro to SynBio video lesson

Download Standards & Measurement video lesson


Intro to SynBio Standards and Measurements
Measurement Kit for BioBrick Promoters and RBSs



download poster

Download Lab Quick Guide

Download Quick Guide

iTune Device comic strip

Download comic strip

BioBuilder Lab

Lab Materials

Download Original Lab Manual for iTune Device

Download Quick Guide for the lab

Download Reagents List (Appendix) from the BioBuilder Textbook

Download packing list for the iTune Device lab

Lab Videos

Streaking Cells Overnight Cultures


Download Lab Intro for iTune Device_v1

Download Lab Intro for iTune Device_v2

Other Resources

Download workflow for iTune Device protocol

Analysis and Feedback

Lab Follow-ups

Students can compare their results to others using an alternative lysis protocol. Download protocol that uses CHCl3.

Students can rehearse or repeat the procedure to determine if timing of each step is as precise as possible.

If a microfuge is available, students can compare their OD420 results before and after spinning the stopped reactions for one minute to pellet any cell debris.

Submit your Data

iTUNEdevice_sample data

When the students have finished their experiments, ask them to upload their data to the BioBuilder site to see how their measurements compare to what other BioBuilders around the country have seen. Email BioBuilder for the passcode to enter the data sharing portal.

Assessment Rubrics

Download sample rubrics to modify and use:

Lab Report Score Sheet for iTune Device
Lab Report Rubric for iTune Device