Team:Aachen/Practices/Maker Faire

Carrying on an Aachen tradition

Last year, the iGEM Team Aachen was invited to the annual MakerFaire in Hannover to exhibit their DIY measurement devices. This year, we went to the MakerFaire to demonstrate the first prototype of our self made small scale biorector to more than 5500 visitors per day. Thanks a lot to Carsten from the iGEM Team Braunschweig 2014 and to the Stratum Hackerspace for sharing their exhibition booth with us!


Initiating our collaboration with the iGEM Team Bielefeld

Before going to the MakerFaire, we stopped by at the iGEM Team Bielefeld. While having coffee and cake, each team presented their project followed by a little discussion and receiving feedback. We were fortunate to get valuable ideas concerning using our pumps in microfluidics. As a consequence, we adjusted the design of our devices and focused on a modular system to support this, and other possible fields of application.



Teach the teacher

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Fascination has no age

The best part about the MakerFaire was when children at the age of twelve were fascinated by the bioreactor and tried their best to understand the working principles behind every part. But also adults were affected by our presented hardware. A number of teachers asked us if they could take pictures of us and our work for teaching purposes. One teacher from a private school was even interested in buying our bioreactor.

Together we worked out a possible teaching concept that unites different classes: Assembly of the bioreactor in a science class, analysis of the software in the computer science class and using the bioreactor in the biology (they have an S1 lab) and chemistry class. Unfortunately, we could not realize the project before the jamboree because of the summer holidays in German schools.

With all our discussions and explanations we did not only teach others about DIY biology, but also learned a lot about the principles of openly shared knowledge and the opportunities this generates. We got useful tipps and "how to's" about laser cutting, 3D printing, edging and many other standard DIY tools. Asking the question "what would you add to the bioreactor?", the most common answer was: "microbes". However, there was also some feedback on the technical aspects of our reactor system, which influenced our next design process, for example the demand to use bioreactors of different volumes.


First encounter with the Technik Garage

Apart from demonstrating our bioreactor, we had a look at all the amazing projects made by the other makers. It happended that we came across one the very few German Community Labs, the “Technik Garage”. Among other things, they built a pH-value system that automatically corrects the pH of a measured solution by pumping vinegar or diluted drain cleaner into the solution. Such as we do, they use rotation pumps. However, they used to buy pumps from the internet. That is why, they were really interested in our low-cost DIY pump design.

During the discussions about open hardware and open biology, we came to know that one of their projects is perfectly matching our strategy. To be more precise, the Technik Garage developed a DIY system to extract CO2 from thin air. Together with the next generation electrolysis cells of Sunfire which can convert CO2 to methanol, this would be the perfect method to exploit an alternative sustainable carbon source. Since we had so many overlapping interests, we agreed to meet again. All of this inspired us to have a deeper look into the German Community Lab scene.


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Team picture Maker Faire 2015

Within three days we

  • Initiated the collaboration with the iGEM Team Bielefeld
  • Reached a wide variety of people with discussions about DIY Biology and Hardware
  • Got specific feedback on our bioreactor design from specialists of the DIY community

To crown it all, the organization commitee of the MakerFaire surprisingly awarded us “Maker of Merit” for an extraordinary exhibition. That meant, we got invited to exhibit our bioreactor at the MakerFaire Berlin in October. Unfortunately, we cannot accept that offer since we will still be in the USA at that time... Nevertheless, this was clearly a highlight of our trip!

Impressions of the MakerFaire

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Thank you, Stratum Braunschweig!
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Thousands of interested visitors, thousands of interesting discussions
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No, this is not posed!
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Picture taken by the Technik Garage