Spreading Science in South Carolina

05.02.17

Requests for the Gene Machine’s 2017-2018 school year are now being accepted!

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A day in the life of the Gene Machine


Wake up, it’s still dark out. Get out of bed, step on the dog. Cook breakfast, burn the bacon. Get in the car, spill my coffee…. Good start, oh
and I’m ten minutes late. I’m an educator, but not in a normal sense.

I work for the Education Department at the Greenwood Genetic Center.

When I arrive at work, most days I climb aboard a 41 foot custom coach packed with enough scientific equipment to make your head spin. Our team of three:
our driver, the other instructor, and myself, then typically take a ride that lasts somewhere between one and two hours to a school somewhere in South
Carolina to teach students about genetics in a very unique way.

Introducing students to the world of genetics

Once on site we set up our lab equipment and invite classes of students to join us on what has been termed the “Gene Machine”. At first, the bus is filled
with “oohs” and “aahs” and “this is way bigger inside than I thought it would be”. Before we ever even introduce ourselves you can see an interest
growing, maybe not in genetics specifically quite yet but we will get there. As we start to teach, we first introduce ourselves, our organization,
the Greenwood Genetic Center, (GGC) and describe what GGC does.

We then show them the equipment that they’ll be using, which typically includes teaching them how to use a micropipette and load agarose gels for gel electrophoresis.
As we lead each unique class of students through which ever lab module their respective teacher chose I can slowly see the emotions on the students
faces change; from excitement, to interest, to maybe a little bit of confusion mixed in.

Our labs range from showing students the basics to gel electrophoresis and solving a forensics case to teaching them about topics like folic acid and genetically
modified organisms. We walk our students through an experience they will hopefully never forget, that will take them from what may start as confusion
to a destination of a better understanding of genetics and biotechnology accompanied with new excitement about learning.

Meet Makayla Gunn

Makayla was diagnosed with Rett Syndrome in April of 2015 at the age of two. At about 18 months, we noticed she had started some repetitive hand motions, and her pediatrician was a little concerned that she did not have many words. She had learned some sign language, and was saying ‘mama’ and ‘dada’, but that was it. Then she suddenly stopped all of that. At her 2 year old check-up, the pediatrician referred us to BabyNet, SC’s early interve...

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