SoundBio reaches new heights at the Museum of Flight

SoundBio was delighted to be included in the Museum of Flight’s Maker Night on Sept 19th, 2018. This is the second year that the Museum of Flight has hosted this event and we understand why - the event was SOLD OUT!

Offered specifically to their Connection Members, the families that visited our booth were eager to learn more about what we do and how we do it. The reception could not have been warmer or more enthusiastic. We met many home school families too, and they fell in love with our 3D printed microscope clips. We make these clips in the lab, add a lens, and then clip them onto a smartphone camera or tablet. This clever device instantly turns any smartphone into a microscope. The best part is taking pictures and videos with the camera functions on your phone.

One woman got so excited when she saw Abe Lincoln on a penny, she decided to purchase them for everyone in her learning group! Here’s a picture I snapped during the event using these microscope clips:

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Aside from meeting some wonderful kids and parents, we were also pretty excited to have our table situated directly in front of a GE jet engine, and a new 787 Boeing Dreamliner! It was an incredible venue and a beautiful evening. We look forward to attending more Museum of Flight activities in the future.

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Seattle's Mini Maker Faire 2018 is in the books!

We had a fantastic time at Seattle's Mini Maker Faire, 2018 at MoPOP in Seattle's City Center this past weekend, Aug 18 - 19th. This is the second time SoundBio Labs hosted a table at this 2 day event.

We presented a new tabling activity this year, and it was very well received by both kids and adults. With the help of one of our members, Riti Biswas, who was working at the Baker Lab at UW, we came up with the Filtration Challenge. The goal is to separate out rice from 3 other 'contaminants' that are all mixed together in a bowl. We provide participants with a variety of scientific 'tools' to complete the challenge. It's up to them to figure out the best way to do it.

We love this new tabling event for a variety of reasons:

  • Filtration (and separation) are core practices in any biology lab
  • It's 100% hands-on in terms of engagement
  • Appeals to a wide age range - everyone enjoys a challenge!
  • Forces the participant to think about their approach to a problem
  • There is no 'right' or 'wrong' way to do it, but some methods are easier
  • Allows us to talk about things like sterility, sample loss, and efficiency  - all important topics 
  • Filtration is relevant to more than just biology - most STEM fields deal with contamination, or separation - whether it's to purify a sample or to reduce background noise for signal detection
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Our second challenge was the (always well received) Black Box Challenge! Folks love this puzzle because it's hands-on, and well, quite difficult! We offer 5 different black boxes that all have a marble in them. The participant needs to figure out, by rolling the marble around, what shape is inside each box. We have a sheet that shows all the shapes, and they have to match the boxes to the sheet correctly. The idea behind this challenge is that science is very much a black box! We need to use our observation skills and we need to gather evidence to support our hypothesis. 

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So there you have it, another great Maker Faire for SoundBio Labs, in the books!

Tour of WA State Public Health Laboratory

Thanks to one of our members, we were able to set up a private tour of the WA State  Department of Public Health (Division of Disease Control), this past Thursday in Shoreline, WA. We had a great turnout, and the almost 2 hour tour was excellent! This facility services the entire state of WA, and does work on a wide variety of infectious diseases and contaminants in our environment. They handle BSL level 3 activities (such as TB). According to their website, they "provide diagnostic and analytical services for the assessment & surveillance of infectious, communicable, genetic, and chronic diseases and environmental health concerns". 

Our tour included divisions of Epidemiology, Environmental Sciences, Newborn Screening, and Infectious Diseases.  Infectious diseases included STDs, TB, Rabies, and MMR to name a few. A highlight was watching a technician dissect a rabies infected bat found on the University of WA campus. Click through the pictures below to view some bats that were provided by the Burke Museum:

The Environmental Sciences group tests air, water and ground contaminants. This group is comprised mostly of chemists, trying to detect things outside our body, that could potentially harm humans.  For example, they can detect nuclear isotopes which is important given our proximity to DOE's Nuclear Hanford Site in Eastern WA. They are also involved in monitoring our air quality, which was vitally important after the Fukushima nuclear disaster in 2011 (winds brought radioactive particles to our shore). In addition to isotope detecting, they also monitor neurotoxins in our coastal waters. They have a dedicated shellfish lab where they collect and test shellfish regularly, so we know if our local shellfish is safe to eat. Here are a few pictures you can click through to see their labs and instrumentation:

The newborn screening group was in a newer section of the building and had an incredible MS-MS (mass spec - mass spec) that could screen up to 75 different assays at once. Currently they use it for 18 of the 29 different screening tests that are mandated by the state of WA on all babies. It was fascinating! Here's a last set of pictures that include some specialized baby formula that they offer to PKU families in need:

It was obvious that all of the scientists who took time out of their busy schedules to show us their labs, are extremely smart, passionate and dedicated to their work. It was an extraordinary glympse into the safety monitoring system that goes on behind the scenes, every day, to help keep us safe. Science at its best!

Seattle's 2018 Mini Maker Faire Prep Starts Now!

We are excited to attend Seattle's Annual Mini Maker Faire coming up next month, Aug 18 -19th.  This will be out second time attending the Maker Faire at the iconic MoPOP museum in Seatte's City Center. We will have items to sell, and of course some fun, hands-on activities for kids and adults. Be sure to check out their website to see what other groups will be tabling along with us.

The red hot Maker Movement is going strong in the PNW, and is having a great impact in our community. Last year they had over 8,000 attendees so we were very busy! If you are interested in helping out, or know someone who would like to volunteer at our booth, please consider reaching out to us at info (at) sound.bio . We love being part of this DIY movement. Please join us!

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Debuting our new -80 Freezer!

How low can you go?!

This is the question we asked our VWR Rep when we started our search for a new -80 Freezer. Well, okay, maybe not, but the cool (ha ha) new -80 FREEZER that just arrived in the lab can go way below freezing, the key feature we need to safely store our bacterial cell lines and yeast samples.  We are beyond excited to add this awesome piece of equipment to SoundBio Lab! As with everything, we had quite the experience 1) getting it to the lab and 2) getting it into position, but we can safely say that it's ready to be plugged in soon.

After reviewing our options and considering a variety of units, we eventually decided upon the Model SU105UE Ultra-low Temperature Undercounter Freezer by Stirling Ultracold. What we liked:

  • Low energy consumption, <4kWh/day @ -80 --> no crazy electrical bills!
  • Small, under the bench footprint --> it fits!
  • Plugs into any basic outlet --> wont fry our electrical grid!
  • 3.7 cu.ft --> can store almost 100 standard freezer boxes!
  • 100% natural refrigerants --> sounds good! :)
  • Cheap(er) shipping --> we are a non-profit!

So, if you aren't familiar with freezing cell lines (sometimes referred to as cryopreservation), having a -80 is key to maintaining cell viability. Different cell lines prefer different freezing medium, but in general, some kind of croyprotective agent such as DMSO or glycerol needs to be used. There are many protocols out there - so we'll have to do some testing to see what works best for us.

Next step: Hit up the UW Surplus store and stack up (ha ha) on some freezer boxes and cryotubes. We'll keep you posted when we are ready to plug it in.

 

New Science Curriculum coming to Seattle Public Schools

Some good news for those of us in science education in the PNW!

Seattle Public Schools (SPS) has committed to updating all of their science curriculum over the next few years. They are beginning with K-8, and will tackle high school next. This is a big step and commitment by the district because SPS serves over 54,000 children. There are many reasons why this is happening, but the 2013 Washington mandate to adopt the Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS) is the primary reason. The current K-5 curriculum is from 1996 -it's so old that it includes VHS tapes. Yikes! 

Reasons behind this shift include:

  1. 2013 WA mandate to adopt NGSS (Now called the Washington State Science & Learning Standards)
  2. Need to address equity/access problems across the District. Currently, science curriculum is inconsistent between schools. New curriculum will ensure consistency of learning across district.
  3. Update/modernize content. A lot has changed in over 20 years!
  4. Adopt a 'phenomenon based' teaching approach. All content is linked to a science phenomenon or 'hook' to better engage students. This will be a big shift for the teachers!
  5. Abide by new, mandatory state testing requirements.
  6. Address the gap between available STEM jobs/careers vs high school/college readiness
These new standards will help educators cultivate students’ natural curiosity, push their creative boundaries and get kids excited about science and technology. This is a tremendous step forward for Washington’s students.
— Governor Inslee
  Practices: &nbsp;Describe how scientists build theories and models about the way our world, and systems within it, works.   Crosscutting concepts: &nbsp;Concepts that apply to all four science domains.   Disciplinary core ideas: &nbsp;the foundational ideas needed for every student to be able to begin his or her own inquiries and practices.

Practices: Describe how scientists build theories and models about the way our world, and systems within it, works.

Crosscutting concepts: Concepts that apply to all four science domains.

Disciplinary core ideas: the foundational ideas needed for every student to be able to begin his or her own inquiries and practices.

The new curriculum adoption committee has been selected, and they have already met twice to come up with the assessment rubric used to rate the various curriculum packages. This assessment rubric will be finalized in the fall. It includes 5 major components:

  1. Standards Alignment
  2. Assessments
  3. Accessibility for Diverse Learners
  4. Evaluation of Bias Content
  5. Instructional Planning and Support

SoundBio's Dir. of Outreach, Holly Sawyer, is one of the members on this adoption committee and promises to keep us in the loop as this ongoing process unfolds. Stay tuned for more information in the fall of 2018!

Citizen Salmon Project Is Making Waves

 

SoundBio has been hosting a wonderful Citizen Salmon science project since opening its doors last March.  Needless to say, moving from our co-founder's garage into SoundBio's state-of-the-art lab has been a huge help in furthering this science project!

Originally created in 2015, Citizen Salmon is a community of curious citizen scientists interested in understanding the origins of the salmon found in our fish markets and restaurants. Salmon are not only vital to Cascadia, but they are a highly valued food source, a key export, and a cultural icon of our region. 

Project Mission:

The goal of Citizen Salmon is to acquire a deeper knowledge of local food origins while providing accessible science to the public. By connecting the information about a salmon’s genes with its birthplace, the project hopes to develop a simple tool that citizen scientists may use independently to determine the origin of salmon on their plate. In short, we want to understand where we get our food.

Very cool indeed!

The current leads on this project are Wakanene Kamau and SoundBio co-founder, Regina Wu.  The group is working on differentiating between different salmon species using a protocol called LAMP. LAMP stands for 'loop-mediated isothermal amplification'. NEB has a nice overview of the complete LAMP protocol , but here is their formal description:  

Loop-mediated isothermal amplification (LAMP) uses 4-6 primers recognizing 6-8 distinct regions of target DNA. A strand-displacing DNA polymerase initiates synthesis and 2 of the primers form loop structures to facilitate subsequent rounds of amplification. LAMP is rapid, sensitive, and amplification is so extensive that the magnesium pyrophosphate produced during the reaction can be seen by eye, making LAMP well-suited for field diagnostics. - NEB

 
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SoundBio is excited to welcome two new members to our Citizen Salmon Team! Welcome Amy Chen and Christiana Doulami! We are always looking for more members (community projects are basically volunteers, right?!) to help move the project forward. Don't hesitate to reach out. Please email Regina Wu - regina at sound dot bio - to learn more. We use the MeetUp platform to send out meeting invites, so be sure to check out SoundBio on MeetUp!

 

Outreach at Wedgwood Elementary School

We were delighted to be invited back to Wedgwood Elementary School for another great outreach event this spring. Every year in May, Wedgwood holds their science fair where the kids present their experiments, and outside vendors come in to share their passion for science. The highlight of the evening was definitely the egg drop test. Kids tried to protect their eggs, using all sorts of different strategies, so that they wouldn't break when dropped off the top of a fire truck ladder. It was great to see our Seattle fire department contributing towards a fun STEM evening!

SoundBio hosted an expanded pipetting station as a way for kids to learn a core lab skill, starting with the transfer of water from petri dish to petri dish. They then moved on to small PCR tubes, practicing careful liquid handling while fine tuning their hand motor skills. Once they got the hang of it, they hand a chance to create a colorful microtube necklace. It was a great event and we had mobs of kids. 

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Plant Sale at SoundBio

SoundBio hosted its first ever Plant Sale at the lab on Mother's Day! Orlando de Lange, a post-doc at the University of Washington in the Department of Electrical Engineering, came up with the fundraiser because of his passion for plant horticulture and bioengineering.  On Sunday, Dr. Lange helped to sell a set of 30 tropical houseplants that he and his partner cultivated at home. All the money raised from this event will help fund ongoing plant work at SoundBio. 

In case you haven't heard, Dr. Lange is leading a new citizen science project at SoundBio Lab. A small group of SoundBio members have been meeting regularly in the lab to discuss ideas for a community project. The group is currently building a living collection of different species and varieties of plants from the genus Oxalis. These plants are small edible herbs, many of which grow wild in the US, and are more commonly known as wood sorrell. The leaves look like 4-leaved clovers, giving them the name Shamrock plant. 

Dr. Lange's goal is to share his excitement and knowledge with other plant and science enthusiasts. If you are interested in learning more about plant science at SoundBio, please don't hesitate to reach out. Email us at plants@sound.bio to learn more!

Outreach at the Shoreline STEM Festival 2018

May is always a big month for us at SoundBio because of the many school science nights and STEM festivals that occur around this time. We were delighted to be invited back to Shoreline's annual STEM Festival held at the Shoreline Community College (SCC). The event is always well attended, with many different groups represented, including (but not limited to): Young Women in Biology, Audubon Society, SCC Mechantronics, Everett's Astronomical Society,  Fred Hutch Cancer Center, Friends of Issaquah Salmon Hatchery, US Army Corp of Engineers, UW's iGEM Team and Maker Lab NW. Of course, these folks were outdone by the wonderful student exhibits which included fun topics such as a lemon battery, a glowing pendulum, fruit ripening, testing gummy bears in different liquids, and trying to calculate the energy from a peanut! The PNW has some very clever kids.

Two of our volunteers hosted a table for SoundBio where they helped kids extract DNA from strawberries. We love doing this activity at tabling events because it's a fast, easy and safe way to demonstrate the power of science and biology. Many kids have an 'ah-ha' moment when they first see the DNA forming in the tube. We like to bring along some yarn so the kids can proudly wear a 'real' DNA necklace - a 1.5ml microtube clipped onto the yard with the DNA suspended in alcohol. Definitely a very fun and rewarding way to inspire our youth.

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Donations sent to Africa

SoundBio Lab is a big supporter of all DIY biologist and that extends beyond our immediate community. When we learned of a new effort in Africa to start up a lab, we jumped in to help. Thanks to some extra donations, we were able to put together a nice starter kit for our friend Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou who is starting a biohacking makerspace in Cameroon, Africa. Our starter set included some plastic consumables, simple lap equipment such as a scale, vortex, gel box, and a few basic reagents.  

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Our friend Thomas Hervé Mboa Nkoudou is currently the International President of APSOHA, the Association for the Promotion of OpenScience in Haiti and Africa. As a PhD student in public communication at Université Laval, his thesis focused on the maker movement and free culture in sub-Saharan Africa. With a Bachelor in Biochemistry, and a Master in Didactics of sciences, Thomas Mboa is the perfect man to promote DIY Biohacking in Africa.

So it turns out, sending items to Africa is not the easiest thing to do! SoundBio brought 2 packed suitcases full of supplies to the iGEM competition at MIT last November, 2017. Unfortunately, we couldn’t immediately find someone to take the supplies to Thomas in Africa. The BosLab was kind enough to store the suitcases until David Kong and Connie Chow were able to bring them along to Africa when they attended AfricaOSH in April, 2018. It may have taken a few months longer that we had hoped, but the supplies finally made it to Thomas!  

SoundBio will hopefully be visiting the new lab in 2018, where we will be able to bring additional items such as bacterial strains, plasmids, and other useful reagents.

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New Flooring for the Lab

If you’ve stopped by the lab recently you may have noticed our fantastic new flooring!

Like most things in the lab, there is a bit of a story behind it.  When we first got the keys to the lab space back in 2017, we had to remove an old wood dance floor. The space used to be a dance studio (hence the awesome wall of mirrors).

We realized that in order to convert the space into a lab, we needed a safe, durable and nonporous floor, so the dance floor was quickly dismantled and removed. Unfortunately, we learned the hard way that the floor underneath was a strange, soft kind of concrete, one that did not etch well with acid, or hold our new epoxy treatment. The chipping and peeling issue got worse quickly, so after several failed attempts to patch the floor, we decided to cover it up and start anew. Not an easy feat given the lab is full of benches, equipment and supplies!

Thanks to many wonderful volunteers, we were able to install the new waterproof, vinyl plank flooring over the course of 3 days, from Feb 23 – 25th, 2018. The biggest challenge was moving all of the lab equipment back and forth to free up floor space for the install. We managed to get the job done, however, and are thrilled with the results! We hope you are too. If we get a chance, we may post a cool time lapse video of the install process. Stay tuned!

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Outreach at Olympic Hills

SoundBio Lab had a wonderful evening with Olympic Hills Elementary School last Thursday, March 15th, 2018. Olympic Hills is a K-5 elementary school in NE Seattle and is part of the Seattle Public School system. With over 400 kids attending the school, science night was busy! We hosted 2 separate hands-on activities for the kids.

Our first station was a light microscope where we taught the kids how to make their own slides, and then adjust the scope to look at their sample. Common household items like onions, lettuce, salt and pepper were used as our ‘specimens’.  This DIY method is fast, easy and simple to do at home too.  The kids cut out small holes in card stock and then taped their samples into the holes. Once they created their slide, they labeled them, and then worked with our volunteers to focus on the sample. It was a big hit and was the first time some of the smaller kids had a chance to look through a real light microscope.

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Sound Bio’s outreach team was, once again, a great addition to our school’s science fair! The students LOVED using pipettes to make colorful pendants for their necklaces and studying different materials under the microscope. Thank you!!!!
— Mona Oster

Our second table is one of our most popular activities for K-5 aged children. We use plastic pipets and taught the children how to collect colored liquid (without spilling!), and how to carefully put it into microcentrifuge tubes. After filling up their tube with brightly colored water, they clipped them onto a string of yarn to create their very own science necklace. All in all, the kids and volunteers had a lot of fun celebrating science. Thank you Olympic Hills Elementary School!

Seattle's High School iGEM Team

The 2018 iGEM registration is open and the iTesla-SoundBio High School Team is looking for new members! iGEM (International Genetically Engineered Machine) is a premiere international competition that focuses on using synthetic biology to solve real world problems, and includes teams in multiple tracks: High School, Community Lab, Undergraduate, and Overgraduate.

Last year, team iTesla-SoundBio attended their first iGEM Jamboree in Boston and spent four days exploring the ideas and projects of undergraduate teams from around the world. They were thrilled to win a bronze medal for their project: Eliminating PCB pollution in the Puget Sound by genetically modifying E. coli!

Right now our team is considering three projects including: a) boosting innate plant defense systems to combat Apple Replant Disease, b) engineering biosensors to detect perchlorate in soil and water on Mars, and c) designing an alternative to endotoxin tests, which currently require horseshoe crab blood. The team invites any and all high schoolers who are interested to contact itesla@sound.bio! No experience is necessary!

If you are not a high school student but want to support the team, they are courteously receiving donations here!: http://www.sound.bio/donate/ -- Be sure to select the option entitled High School iGEM team (iTesla).

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UV-Vis Spec Teardown Workshop

What does one do with a working but ancient piece of technology? We chose to take it apart and see how it works! The other weekend, we held a teardown workshop to dissect and play around with the insides of an old UV-Vis Spectrophotometer. This spec was made in 1995 and while it is over 23 years old, it was surprisingly perfectly functional. We booted it up and did a couple of tests with the outer plastic cover removed. SoundBio is fortunate to have members that include a retired physicist and an electrical engineer, and both were able to walk the rest of us through what the various components did and how the machine works! It was neat to see the rainbow created by the mirrors pass over the slit through which the sample cuvette is located, allowing for a full spectrum scan. The detector on the other side captures how much light scattering occurs and calculates the absorbance of the sample after subtracting out the absorbance of the blank.

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We then proceeded to take it all apart! Certain optical pieces were scavenged for future projects as well as a few other interesting parts. All the plastic and metal pieces went in the trash and the circuit boards went home with a member whose kid was looking forward to playing around with the old, large components. If you’re a member at SoundBio and want to use a UV-Vis spectrophotometer for your project, fear not! We have two newer models that are available for you to use. :)

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If you’re interested in a future teardown workshop, keep your eye on our meetup page. We have a slightly broken water purifier which we recently replaced with a fully operational one, and plan to have another workshop to rip the old unit apart.

SoundBio @ MiniMaker Faire Seattle! 9/16-17

SoundBio will be at MiniMaker Faire this weekend!

We're so excited for our first year at the Faire! We have lots of activities planned. Plus we'll be showing off some of the projects we've been working on. Come check out our booth! We'll have bacteria art, 3D printed science tools, and fun activities!

BIOHTP Conference

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Thank you to BioHack The Planet for recently having us for their 2017 Conference in Oakland, CA! We had a productive few days of discussion, collaboration and presentation with like-minded biohackers; you can check out a list of all the fantastic speakers here. Watch SoundBio's talk here, and for last year's talk at BioHTP by one of our projects, Citizen Salmon, click here!

Support SoundBio Lab for GiveBIG on May 10

GiveBIG is a one-day online fundraiser geared towards investing in the future of Greater Seattle. Join the thousands who will be giving on May 10 and support science and its potential to improve our world by making a gift to SoundBio as part of GiveBIG Seattle. Every tax-deductible gift will be matched dollar-for-dollar, up to $10,000!

Support Soundbio Lab as part of GiveBIG!

SoundBio is a 501(c)(3) nonprofit dedicated to promoting science education, providing access to biotechnology, and fostering self-learning in order to promote science understanding and inspire the next generation of scientists.

We are a community of amateur and professional science enthusiasts who are devoted to making hands-on science accessible to people of all ages, backgrounds, and experience levels.

Why donations are needed

SoundBio relies on our partnerships, volunteers, and lab guests to sustain our operations, and we rely on donations via efforts like GiveBIG to support the expansion and advancement of our mission and vision. SoundBio offers:

  • Access to our member-run, community lab space in Seattle’s University District

  • Workshops and classes, including a Lab Skills 101 three-course series

  • Hosting to the iTesla-SoundBio iGEM Team, a group of students from several Seattle high schools who are working to eliminate harmful environmental contaminants using synthetic biology

  • Hands-on learning activities at Seattle-area elementary and middle school science nights

  • Exploration of salmon origins and the current environmental state of Pacific Northwest species via the Citizen Salmon project

  • The Bionic Leaf Bioreactor project to address global climate change

How your GiveBIG donation helps

Your gift will support SoundBio's continued efforts to: 

  • Provide workshop materials to hundreds of students in the Seattle area

  • Increase STEM outreach efforts to after-school programs, schools, and other educational institutions

  • Expand our curriculum development, including the creation of DIY science kits for families and schools

  • Provide essential lab equipment and reagents for the iTesla-SoundBio iGEM Team, such as a -80℃ freezer

  • Subsidize hands-on workshops and classes at the SoundBio Lab

  • Provide lab safety equipment and consumables including gloves, tubes, reagents, and pipettes

All gifts will be matched dollar-for-dollar up to $10,000, so your donation will have twice the impact. Please help support science education by making a contribution to SoundBio Lab as part of GiveBIG Seattle.

 

Thank you for your support of science exploration!