We were kindly asked to present some of our work here within the Kendall group to members of the public at a Royal Institution family fun day called ‘Spooky Science’ (as it was close to Halloween!).

So myself, Amanda and Val came up with the idea of ‘Mutant knockout’, a fun game involving kids having to knock genes out from bacteria and checking their phenotypes. So to do this we used a nerf gun (a replacement for some boring and complex gene knockout techniques) and a washing line (representing a bacterial genome) with lots of different genes (both essential and non-essential) hanging from the ‘genome’. The kids had 3 bullets and had to knockout as many genes as possible from the washing line, then we talked over what knocking out one particular gene would do. For example, one gene was hly3 from Streptococcus, in that if you knockout/delete this gene, it would no longer be able to lyse blood.

Our stand after rushing to set up!

But what was an added benefit was that the nerf guns couldn’t knock the essential genes off of the washing line (I say couldn’t but some kids were determined to knock them out and did indeed knock them out). As we used bulldogs clips to ensure they would stay on the washing line, whereas non-essential genes were only secured by a small tiny peg.

Amanda also had an amazing idea of making jelly petri dishes and using cake decorations on semi-set jelly to give the appearance of bacteria. Kids loved these too, as they could touch and smell them, like you can with normal bacteria/agar plates.

Overall it was a huge success, we run out of our 80 information sheets and 100 stickers! I think we saw over 500 kids and adults and we didn’t stop from 11am until 4.30pm. Now, to plan an adult version for our researcher association day, but I’m sure even adults would love nerf guns?