Registration is now open for the ninth season of BioBuilderClub. Let’s take a quick look at the program’s first eight years and then look to future plans and possibilities.

BioBuilderClub is an afterschool program in synthetic biology for high school students. Student teams design, build, and test synthetic biology solutions to real-life challenges. The projects are wholly student-selected and -driven, and their successes are definitely student-generated!

BBC poster_THS

The first 8 great seasons

The BioBuilderClub program’s inaugural season was during the 2013/2014 academic year. Since that time, more than 1700 students from demographically and geographically diverse schools have participated in BioBuilderClub.

That first season had five teams in three US states developing their synthetic biology ideas. By the 2019/2020 season that number had grown to 33 teams from seven countries (Canada, Chile, China, Indonesia, Mexico, Taiwan, US) and 22 US states. Even during the pandemic, 19 teams found innovative ways to collaborate and develop their projects.

Lindsey BBC

“It was the most wonderful and informative research project that I have ever participated in during my career as a science teacher. Both my students and I have learned a lot from this BioBuilder project.”

BioBuilderClub teams have developed bioengineering projects to address challenges in a number of different areas: the environment, medicine, biomaterials, and more. Just a few examples of their innovative ideas are:

  • Bacterial enzymes that degrade aquatic microplastics
  • Efficient extraction of lithium from batteries
  • Insulin-producing probiotic bacteria

Check out the BioBuilderClub project library to see more student accomplishments.

“My favorite part was that we learned how to do scientific research based on papers, journals, and advice from our mentors. The research we did for our project was far more in depth and advanced than what we would do in a normal high school class, and we feel that we gained a lot from this experience.”

montrose school

Ready for a stellar 9th season

Now, a new season is ready to get rolling. As students form their teams and begin their project research, they (and their teachers) have the support of a number of professionals:

  • A BioBuilderClub SLACK channel is where students and teams from around the globe can share ideas and problem-solve together..
  • Teams are paired with a practicing bioengineer who provides mentoring throughout their project.
  • Teams receive a simple laboratory kit to plan and perform an individualized experiment.
  • Teams have access to professional-grade molecular biology materials from New England Biolabs.
  • Students are invited to visit a BioBuilder Learning Lab once during the season for hands-on engagement in a professional-grade laboratory.

In addition to gaining bioengineering knowledge, BioBuilderClub helps students develop their communication and teamwork skills.

manhattan team

“It has been great to help students experience the process of science/engineering, from planning, testing, and troubleshooting to collaborating and communicating ideas with others.”

At a virtual Final Assembly in March, teams are invited to give a one-minute “lightning talk” about their project and present a poster about their work. Teams that do so will have their project documented in the BioBuilderClub Project Library.

Teams can also submit their work to BioTreks, the only international synthetic biology journal that publishes solely high school student-authored and student-reviewed articles. Students learn to follow the journal’s author guidelines to prepare a professional-quality article that is presented at a yearly online review conference. Students also review and provide feedback on their peers’ submissions during the conference. These practices allow students to gain valuable pre-professional experience writing and evaluating scientific manuscripts.

“My team's greatest successes this year include developing a viable project idea and actually designing experiments that we are able to follow through with (and have begun!). We are very proud of finally being able to get past the brainstorm stage.”

PHACS_team photo

Outstanding outcomes

All of these aspects of BioBuilderClub support real and meaningful student research, enabling them to take their ideas from concept to prototype to publication. In addition to hands-on laboratory skills, students report substantial gains in essential skills such as collaboration, problem-solving, project management, research, and teamwork.

The authenticity of this program sparks engagement as students experience the true process of research and learning. They generate a valued finished product that reflects their creativity, hard work, and productive collaborations.

A bright future

Here at BioBuilder, we look forward to continuing growth in the number of BioBuilderClub teams, teachers, and schools. We anticipate 20–30% growth each season in the numbers of students and teams, and a corresponding increase in student projects published in BioTreks.

BioBuilder will continue to partner with supporting organizations and companies such as New England Biolabs, Ginkgo Bioworks, and others to help expand the reach of the BioBuilderClub program. Such partnerships will provide mentoring of student teams along with professional-grade molecular biology reagents, tools, and publications.


Students often remark on the awareness they’ve gained from their BioBuilderClub experience.

One student put it succinctly when she said, “I’ve learned more about the sheer opportunities that synthetic biology and biotechnology offer to our society as a whole.”

Now that’s the kind of success we can all get behind!

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