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David Ng will be presenting a prototype of the educational game that he is developing. He also will be sharing the vision for further work and looking for collaborator.

Helping developing this game is a great opportunity for engineers and designers to learn about molecular biology and use their existing skills.

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Petri Dish is a cell biology game for kids. The goal of the game is to design a cell that grows and reproduces by cell division. Students direct cell growth by building proteins to transport nutrients into the cell and waste products out of the cell, and catalyze individual reactions in the metabolic network. At the start of the game, the student directs the cell manually; but later, the student’s decision-making is programmed into the cell’s control systems so the cell can grow and divide autonomously.

By choosing which proteins to build, the student can direct the cell to spend more resources on producing energy, amino acids, nucleotides, and phospholipids. Balancing competing pathways in the metabolic network is crucial.

Over time, the student transitions from directing the cell manually to programming the cell to direct itself autonomously. Control systems monitor chemical concentrations both inside and outside of the cell, and use feedback loops to throttle proteins and decide which proteins to build. Once the cell is growing and dividing autonomously, students will design cells to meet design challenges and colonies of different cells will compete for space and nutrients in different petri dish environments.

More details about the game are at http://www.verticallearning.org/app/petri_dish/index.html