OpenTrons and miniPCR

This month is proving to be a good month for open-source laboratory hardware. Two projects which have been showing steady progress for quite some time now are ready for large-scale production and have launched kickstarter campaigns to achieve this.

miniPCR

The miniPCR is exactly what it sounds like, a small PCR machine that fits on your workbench. The developers have made some great control software so you can load protocols from your phone,and are using sauna heaters to do the heating. Their kickstarter has been doing very well but some of their stretch goals look good too, so be sure to check them out.

It may appear as though these guys did what we set out to do with our OpenerPCR project, just better. This is largely true, however, we still believe there are some gains to be made in terms of price and the OpenerPCR project still has some use for people wanting to build their own. Either way, a big congratulations to the miniPCR crew and we are confident their product will have a large impact.

OpenTrons

As many a scientist knows, sometimes lab work can be so monotonous and repetitive, it makes you feel like a trained monkey. Well, despair no more! Meet your low-cost, open-source lab-monkey: OpenTrons!

By letting this baby take care of the more brain-dead aspects of lab work, scientists around the world can now focus their efforts on the designing of experiments and protocols rather than executing them. At a price of $2000 these robots are a steal and hopefully we will see them used in labs worldwide.

Check out their kickstarter page here.

E A S Y P H O R E S I S

DIYbio Groningen presents: E A S Y P H O R E S I S!

Inspired by our mission to create Open-source hardware for DIYbio labs, we set our sights on the electrophoresis setup. it was designed and programmed using the amazing open-source software OpenSCAD (highly recommended for anyone who enjoys designing 3D objects). Send the file to the 3D printer… — and a new ready to use electrophoresis apparatus is born!

Gel electrophoresis is one of the most used techniques in any biolaboratory, it is used for the analysis and visualization of DNA and proteins — it is a required step in most experiments that involve DNA manipulations.

Interesting fact:

It took us one evening to design a 3D model of the first ‘beta’ version of EASYphoresis. It costs just a few euro to 3D print, plus some tiny pieces of aluminium foil- and that’s it!

Easyphoresis
On Friday 17 October, we tested our EASYphoresis for the first time. Together with DJO enthusiasts, we performed an experiment during which we ran a DNA sample and some blue markers in the agarose gel. We also tried to make the equipment more waterproof by using the acetone vapour technique.

The results were:

  1. Our first ‘beta’ version of EASYphoresis worked pretty well, which was not surprising to us as the electrophoresis apparatus is a very simple piece of equipment that requires no special materials or difficult hardware for its work.
  2. What is now missing are an efficient power supply for EASYphoresis and a UV transilluminator that will help us to visualize DNA in the gel.

Do you want to help us in designing and making the missing hardware for DNA electrophoresis ? You are very welcome to join us. We meet every Friday at 19.00, come by and see what we can do together! 😉

~ Autumnal Activities ~

Autumn 2014 has been a very nice period for the DIYbio Groningen community. We ran a number of workshops and we have been carrying out several projects at DJO (de Jonge Onderzoekers, Groningen). One of these is the

Mealworm Project

that we initiated specially for kids and nature lovers who can follow the mealworm life cycle in real-time. The primary goal of the project is to see if we can maintain a colony and harvest mealworms to experiment with entomophagy– a fancy word for bug-eating. The beetles will also be used by two students doing experiments on the learning behaviour of insect as part of their profielwerkstuk. (Think: conditioning with electroshock!) 

combined_mw_

A small mealworm nursery was created together with DJO participants and should do a good job at giving us some hands on experience with these critters. We started out with 1 kg of live mealworms, many have already transformed into pupae and beetles- lets see if we can keep a colony going.

Participants have already done some experiments to see if the bugs are cannibalistic (they are..) and there are some very good ideas as to how to make them taste less bitter.

After some more testing we will release our secret recipe!

Strawberry DNA – Extract it Yourself!

A few weeks ago, we organized another workshop for DJO visitors called ‘Strawberry DNA – Extract it Yourself”. Participants of different ages learned some basics about DNA and they performed simple experiments on the DNA extraction using only some household chemicals. It turned out to be an active and colourful evening.

Strawberry DNA ExtractionIf you would like to extract DNA from strawberries at home, take some salt and soap, mix it with the fresh strawberry juice following this simple protocol and the DNA is all yours! :-)

World of Technology and Science

Finally, for a whole week at the end of September, DIYbio Groningen participated in the World of Technology and Science exhibition at the jaarbeurs in Utrecht. This exhibition was an opportunity for many companies involved in laboratory hardware, electronics and automation to showcase their products. It was great to see the latest innovation of lab hardware but also fun to explain to people that some of these machines can be built at a tenth of the price.

Together with other Dutch DIYbio groups we presented some examples of open-source laboratory hardware developed by groups from around the world:

World of Technology & Science 2014

Used sources and materials:

http://www.imb.uq.edu.au/download/large/strawberryDNAextraction.pdf

http://www.scientificamerican.com/sciam/cache/file/1F5692BC-66BF-405D-B1502728800D50E5.jpg