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.


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.  


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.


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!


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.

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).


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.


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. :)


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


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!


Instead of painting eggs, we decided to paint with E.coli. During this event, fellow DIY scientists made living pieces of art using E.coli that had been transformed to express fluorescent proteins. We tried to use five colors with varying levels of success. (Sorry everyone, looks like purple and yellow had some issues. Hopefully next time we can make solid colors.)

Here are the results of everyone's beautiful work. Scroll through and find your favorite. I tried to group the pictures by the artist. Please tell me if I miss a plate!


Molecular Biologist Toolkit: Restriction Enzymes

A staple in any DIY biologists' toolkit is the restriction enzyme. These nifty proteins can be used to cut DNA at specific sequences of bases producing either blunt or "sticky" ends. When the "sticky ends" are complementary the DNA combines and can result in a new sequence. Knowing how to use restriction enzymes is the first step in synthetic biology.

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During our third and final workshop in the Lab Skills 101 Series, participants utilized techniques gained from the previous two classes and added one more skill to their molecular toolkit. Participates used three common restriction enzymes (EcoRI, BamHI, HindIII)  to cut bacteriophage DNA. To assess if their cuts were successful, we ran gels to see the band patterns. It was really fun to observe positive outcomes with successful digests! 

- Jaylin and Regina



A few months ago we tested out one of our first workshops at Amazon's Expressions Lab. Using K-12 safe E.coli transformed with a plasmid (piece of DNA) to express fluorescent colored proteins, we invited people at Amazon to paint a picture on agar plates. The fun part of painting with bacteria is that it produces a piece of art that changes over time as the colonies grow larger and eventually die off. Its truly a living painting. Here are some of the results:



DIY ELECTROPHORESIS (Under $10 a piece!)

Gel electrophoresis, at its most basic components, is a polymer matrix and electricity used to separate molecules by size, shape, and charge. Its a common lab technique and an extremely useful one. For our DIY Electrophoresis system, we used:

  • 5 - 9V batteries ($1 a piece at FamilyTree)
  • 2 - Leads with alligator clips ($7 for 10)
  • Silver wire or 2 paper clips (took from the office)
  • Square petri dish or small rectangular container (forever borrowed from kitchen)
  • <1g - Food-grade agar-agar powder ($7 for much more than you'll need)
  • Tape (took from office)
  • 2 - Popsicle sticks: thin and "normal" ($4+$7)
  • Baking soda (<$1 a box!)

Amazingly, it worked like a charm (if the charm was a dependable electrophoresis system)! So, we invited science-lovers from our MeetUp to take part in a workshop where they made their own DIY electrophoresis systems and used it to separate the dyes found on Skittles.

Thanks to everyone that was able to join us! 

- Regina




We held our first official workshop in the lab following our launch party on March 11th! We had a great turnout and we are pleased to see strong interest come from many different age groups. Our education guru, Regina, talked about the importance of laboratory basics and pipette-handling techniques, and then everyone got to practice and perfect their own skills via fun and engaging activities. Success! Check out more of our classes on our MeetUp page.

Bioluminescent Map of Seattle

Painting with Bacteria to Celebrate Seattle

For our launch party held on March 11, 2017, we wanted to celebrate our new space in our amazing city. The week prior, we took a trip to Uwajimaya to find some fresh Pacific fish for sourcing our bioluminescent bacteria that we would use to create a glowing map of the city of Seattle. It was displayed on one of our handmade lab benches and when it got dark enough that evening, we shut off the lights and amazed our guests with a living map! 


Naturally glowing bacteria can easily be found in the ocean. By incubating a marine fish (in our case, Pacific Herring), in a sea water broth, glowing bacteria like Vibrio fischeri can be isolated. These bioluminescent bacteria are “social” organisms and will only glow if there are enough of their “brothers and sisters” around. This regulation of gene expression in response to population density as coordinated behavior is called "quorum sensing", and these bacteria produce and release chemicals that induce the mechanism for creating light. 


The fish were sourced from Uwajimaya (as all good fish are!). We chose pacific herring and rockfish because they were "fresh" (never-frozen) marine fish. (We learned at a later date that the rockfish was sourced from a channel rather than open ocean.) We incubated the fish for 48 hours in sterile sea water bought from a pet store. After incubation, we streaked seawater agar plates from the brightest areas of the fish. Conveniently, V. fischeri grow best around room temperature. To isolate the glowing bacteria, we did 3 rounds of incubating and replating bright colonies. This involved waiting in the dark until our eyes acclimated and circling glowing colonies by marking the backs of petri dishes. We spent a lot of time in the restroom (the only dark place in the lab!).


This was an amazing experience and piece of living art that our SoundBio team and community worked together to make happen. Thanks everyone! 

- Regina Wu