skip to primary navigationskip to content
 

Biomaker Challenge

Biomaker Challenge is a four-month programme challenging interdisciplinary teams to build low-cost sensors and instruments for biology. From colorimeters to microfluidics and beyond, we’re looking for frugal, open source and DIY approaches to biological experiments.

Biomaker Challenge Banner

Download Poster [PDF] | Info Sheet [PDF]

Overview

Whether you’re a biologist looking to optimise your protocols and pick up some electronics knowledge; an engineer looking to apply your skills and gain experience of practical biology or you’re just curious and interested to participate, we’re keen to hear from you.

Participants will receive a Biomaker Toolkit and a discretionary budget for additional sensors, components, consumables and 3D-printing worth up to £1000. All teams will exhibit their device at a Biomaker Fayre in early November.

Eligibility

Applicants and teams:

  • Primary applicants should be students or staff at the University of Cambridge, John Innes Centre or the Earlham Institute. External team members are welcome.
  • Teams can be any size, including individuals if all other eligibility criteria are met.
  • Interdisciplinarity within the team is a judging priority but teams or individuals from the same background are not excluded.
  • Teams which span Norwich and Cambridge are highly encouraged and will receive two Biomaker Toolkits and ability to use their discretionary funding for travel between the two sites.

Proposals:

  • All proposals must lead to a publicly documented and open hardware design and prototype which demonstrates interdisciplinary thinking.
  • Except for Cambridge-Norwich team travel, the discretionary budget can only be spent on hardware, materials, consumables and biological reagents.

Judging Criteria

Judges will evaluate the proposals based on the form submitted. They will give a higher priority to proposals which:

  • Promote and demonstrate interdisciplinary working and exchange, with members of the team being highly likely to learn from each other.
  • Have a clearly articulated use case in biology. Synthetic biology and plant biology are especially prioritised.
  • Involve interesting ideas for low-cost sensors and instrumentation.
  • Are realistic given the timing, costing and team proposed.

Additional credit will be given to applicants who have forged innovative partnerships with Cambridge or Norwich-based external partners and those who have agreements of matched funding for their projects.

Application Process

1. Optionally attend launch event and mixers on:

  • Sat 6 May: Science Makers at Cambridge Makespace
  • Wed 14 June: Biomaker Challenge Mixer at Postdoc Centre on Mill Lane (TBC)
  • Tue 6 June: Biomaker Challenge Mixer at Earlham Institute, Jane Rogers Seminar Room (15:00 - 16:30)
  • Sat 3 June - Sun 4 June: Biomake-a-thon at Cambridge Makespace

2. Optionally submit your profile and interests to the organisers to help put you in touch with like-minded collaborators.

3. Complete application form by 23 June 2017. Undergraduates can apply by two deadlines: 19 May (for those who need their kits before the long vacation) or 23 June (for those who anticipate being in Cambridge for the long vacation).

4. Successful applicants will be informed and kits distributed by 30 June 2017.

Mixers and Profiles

The Biomaker Challenge requires interdisciplinary working, people with biological applications and engineering solutions. We are offering several opportunities to meet potential collaborators from different disciplines and exchange ideas, knowledge and skills

Profiles

If you would like to be matched up with people who have similar ideas and profiles or who might need you particular skills, send the following information to biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk

  1. Name:
  2. Organisation and Department (if applicable)
  3. What ideas, if any, do you already have in mind for the Biomaker Challenge
  4. What would you like to learn?
  5. What can you teach people?

Mixers

Sat 6 May: Science Makers at Cambridge Makespace (12:00-17:00)

Science Makers is a monthly meetup for anyone interested in low-cost and open hardware for science and education to learn and make. This month the theme is colour sensing. How is colour produced, what type of tools and electronics are used to measure it in the lab and the field? We will build a colorimeter and spectrometer together - no prior experience is needed. There will be an opportunity to find out more about the Biomaker Challenge, meet others interested in participating and ask questions.

Tue 6 June: Biomaker Challenge Mixer at Earlham Institute, Jane Rogers Seminar Room (15:00 - 16:30)

Join others interested in participating in the Biomaker Challenge for drinks, snacks and sharing ideas for projects. There will also be the opportunity to find out more about the challenge, see some of the past projects that have inspired it and ask the organisers questions.

Wed 14 June: Biomaker Challenge Mixer at Postdoc Centre on Mill Lane (17:00-19:00, followed by dinner)

Join others interested in participating in the Biomaker Challenge for drinks, snacks and sharing ideas for projects. There will also be the opportunity to find out more about the challenge, see some of the past projects that have inspired it and ask the organisers questions.

Sat 3 June - Sun 4 June: Biomake-a-thon at Cambridge Makespace

Science Makers in June will precede a longer meetup to build equipment for the Biomakespace, a fledgling community lab for biology and engineering being established at the Biomedical Campus. Find out about a range of projects in low-cost equipment for molecular biology and imaging, see how internet of things technology is making it easier than ever before to connect equipment together and operate it remotely. There will be an opportunity to find out more about the Biomaker Challenge, meet others interested in participating and ask questions.

Application Form

The full application should be no more than 2 pages, excluding any figures, photos and diagrams which should be inserted at the end of the document and referenced in the text.

Please submit an application containing the following sections by email to biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk in an editable format such as .odt or .docx (not PDF) and attach any images separately to the email.

Title of Project

Primary contact for the team

Include name, department, organisation and email address

Team

Please include the names and email addresses of all team members, include their department/organisation and briefly (1-2 sentences) what they will contribute to the project.

Summary

Summarise in one paragraph (~150 words) what you aim to do in the project.

Proposal

Include i) the problem you are addressing, ii) the biological systems you are using, iii) the design goals for the hardware, iv) how you plan to implement the project, v) the proposed outcomes and benefits.

Estimate the components and budget that you need to complete the project

You will be able to order further materials - see ordering instructions on www.synbio.cam.ac.uk/biomakerchallenge. Please include catalogue numbers for RS Components, Farnell, CPC OneCall or other Cambridge University suppliers.

 

What can teams expect from the Biomaker Challenge?

  • The Challenge Coordinator will be able to offer assistance and support in making the connections necessary for you to complete your project.
  • Orders for components and materials will be processed on a weekly basis Jul-Sep 2017, teams are expected to have completed using their budget by 31 Oct 2017.
  • Periodic meetups will be run to encourage teams to interact and help share skills and ideas.
  • We have provided a Github organisation to contain all documentation.
  • Advice will be available on openly licensing your output and the best way to make it shareable and useful to others.
  • Prizes will be awarded at the Biomaker Fayre in a variety of categories.

What does the Biomaker Challenge expect from teams?

  • Your hardware should be accessible and reusable. This means that you need to think about open licensing, standard file formats and good documentation.
  • All projects should be documented on Github at the end of the Challenge on 31 Oct 2017.
  • All teams are encouraged to attend other meetings such Science Makers, Biomakespace Meetups and others from CamBridgeSens and the Synthetic Biology SRI.
  • All teams will exhibit at the Biomaker Fayre in early Nov 2017.

If you have any comments or questions, please contact us on biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk.

Ordering Information

Catalogue Components

Orders for items that were not included in the original proposal will be submitted once a week on a Wednesday. They must reach the biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk mailbox by 09:00. Please use the following suppliers and send catalogue numbers via this form:

  • RS Components
  • Farnell
  • CPC OneCall
  • VWR
  • Fisher Scientific
  • Sigma Aldrich

Other suppliers on the University Marketplace system can be used - ask the people responsible for purchases in your lab or department to check the supplier list if unsure.

Once items are received, you will get an email requesting that you pick them up from the Department of Plant Sciences on Downing Site. Very small items can be sent via UMS.

3D Printing

3D-printing can be ordered from the Media Studio at Addenbrooke’s Hospital. Send your order through and when a quote is agreed, cc biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk for information. The Media Studio will invoice us directly for this work.

Contact Details

Please contact biomaker@hermes.cam.ac.uk with any enquiries.

The Biomaker Challenge is organised by:

  • OpenPlant (Cambridge) and the Synthetic Biology SRI: Dr Jenny Molloy; jcm80@cam.ac.uk; 01223 766546
  • OpenPlant (Norwich): Dr Colette Matthewman; colette.matthewman@jic.ac.uk
  • CamBridgeSens: Dr Oliver Hadeler; oh209@cam.ac.uk