2017 marks the fifth year for Lethbridge’s high school iGEM team. We are a dedicated and motivated group of 12 students that come from Chinook High School, Lethbridge Collegiate Institute, and Winston Churchill High School who compete in the iGEM competition under the supervision of instructors and advisors at the University of Lethbridge.
iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) is an international synthetic biology competition that was started in 2004 by a group of students at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. Every year, over 300 of high school and university student teams from around the world attempt to utilize synthetic biology to solve relevant issues. This is done by engineering microorganisms to perform new tasks. This results in organisms with new and relevant functions that can be employed in an attempt to tackle global issues and everyday problems alike. In addition to synthesizing new biological systems, iGEM teams program a wiki that contains all project data and can be used to reach out to the community and raise awareness for iGEM and the targeted issue that year.
This year our team created a project called SynthetINK, that is designed to produce pigments that can be used in ink or in a variety of other colored products at a lower cost, and with a smaller environmental impact than current production methods. Our system helps to reduce the environmental impacts of traditional ink by limiting the use of harmful chemicals and harmful extraction processes and replacing them with less harmful procedures. Our project uses Escherichia coli to naturally produce our desired pigments as waste products while the cells carry out their cellular processes. By using bacteria to produce pigments, we avoid manufacturing processes that are currently being used, which are environmentally detrimental. For example, carbon black is produced by combustion, which produces vast amounts of carbon dioxide, contributing to global warming. We have identified occurring pigments found in nature that can be produced in E. coli that correspond to the four main colors in ink cartridges: black, cyan, magenta, and yellow. Our end product will have no bacterial residue.
In order for the Lethbridge High School iGEM team to complete its project and participate in the iGEM competition, a significant amount of external funding is required. Since this is an extracurricular activity, it is the team’s responsibility to stock the lab, cover all competition fees and associated expenditures, and make all travel arrangements to the international final competition. This is where we need your help. As an active member of our community, the Lethbridge iGEM team hopes that you can help us in our fundraising efforts with financial or in-kind donations. With your help, we can develop our project and send our team to the iGEM Jamboree. This Jamboree is a collection of thousands of students who are each a part of one of the 300+ iGEM teams. There, teams present their projects and a panel of judges evaluates the student's work. At the end of our presentation, team members speak about all the organizations and companies and individuals that sponsor us each year and describe the role that they play in making our pursuits possible.