These past few weeks I have been busy presenting at 2 different maker faires: Randolph and Champlain. Both were fairly small, but very rewarding. I love the idea of a maker faire because you don’t often have that many crazy motivated artists and creators all together in one place. I didn’t have to worry about people not being interested in the project because they were essentially paying money to be inspired by the makers. So, I got to inspire and talk to many people who totally weren’t expecting to learn about biotech.

It is really fun to be on the cutting edge of science, or to at least understand the cutting edge of science. When I talked to people they either had no clue about biotech concepts, or they were debating the best pathway or mechanism for the project. But either way just having a 17 year old force them to consider and think about Genetic Modification and Biohacking seemed to blow people away. 

I had two main goals for the maker faires, 1. To meet educators and professors out of their element, and 2. To fund raise. Both were successful. I got to show educators that learning is about passion. Information is irrelevant unless required or relevant, while understanding is universal, but school doesn’t aim to build understanding simply by not checking for it and rewarding true understanding. They reward people who can stomach busy work and retain arbitrary info. These skills are only useful to bosses, businesses, and corporations, but not to the learner. School makes workers and not learners or innovators. I believe you can’t positively change the world with paperwork and sitting, if anything it negatively changes the world.

I got to show these injustices and others to people. It seemed very persuasive, everyone wants a more imaginative world. When I told people about how the possibilities for genetic modification, I would make sure they felt like using this tech to kill was wrong as well. That really is what it’s being used for large scale, being able to spray artificially synthesized chemicals on food. When it could be used to make dragons, hybrid plants, or ray cats.

Speaking of hybrid plants, I won a $500 grant to make hybrid species of plants using protoplast fusion. It was a contest part of the Champlain Maker Faire. The idea is to take 2 different plant cells and fuse the cells into one then regenerate into full plants. I mainly want to observe the phenotypes that come from such a novel combination. I will start with plants of the same family; my first targets are porcelain berries and grapes.

These are porcelain berries, they are very interestingly colored, I aim to make really colorful fruits with a fusion like this. Porcelain berry is edible as it is but it’s barely palatable, I want to see if it’s possible to make a more edible version with this technique.

I am really excited to start doing my own hands on research and work with living tissue. This is a great project to work on alongside the ray cat solution because its very short in comparison to the ray cat solution. With the ray cat solution there is 10,000 years for the problem to be relevant, so we have as long as it takes to make this cat, but with these plants I need something to show off at next year’s maker faire. These are very fun challenges I am working with and I can’t wait to take them on more and more.