Evo Nano workshop with games

On 21 March we visited Badminton school in Bristol to deliver a workshop, designed to introduce two Year 10 classes to nanoparticle design for cancer treatment. The workshop was delivered by Miranda Addey and Shyamli Suneesh, of the EVO Nano science communication team, and Dr Johanna Blee, a researcher who works on swarms and the Evo Nano project from the University of Bristol.

The workshop has the following aims:

  • Introduce nanoscale and properties, nanoparticles and their design, and their use in cancer treatment
  • Demonstrate the scientific method and the cross-disciplinary nature of scientific research

It was designed for 12-15 year olds, but could be adjusted for younger or older students, or used in community settings. It incorporates elements of the UK science syllabus and would also work to introduce computer programming. The workshop explores the following which is found within the science syllabus:

  • Animal cells
  • Transmission electron microscope
  • Diffusion
  • Cell growth

It also explores:

  • Nanoscale and properties
  • Drug delivery
  • Cancer cell growth
  • Computer modelling and simulating

The main part of the workshop allows the students to think about nanoparticle properties via a boardgame (which can be printed to play) and a programming-based game in Pictoblox. If both of these activities are included the whole thing should take about 1 hour and fifteen minutes- but other activities could also be taken out to make it shorter. It starts with an activity to name the parts of an animal cell:

From there we introduce cancer and its treatment, and nanoscale properties:

Within this they do an activity to guess the material from the nanoscale picture:

They then hear about how the Evo Nano project tries to use computer modelling to find the ideal nanoparticle to successfully deliver drugs to cancer tumours:

They then play a board game where they take the part of a particular nanoparticle with unique properties:

Finally they can change the properties and amount of particles to deliver drugs to cancer cells in an online game using PictoBlox:

We got 23 responses to our survey collecting feedback. Of these, 19 said they enjoyed it, with 4 saying they neither enjoyed nor didn’t enjoy it.  There was also a 20% increase in those who said they would consider a career in STEM before and after the session. They all said they learned something and recognised their syllabus in the workshop. One student commented: That being a scientist doesn’t only mean doing practical experiments in labs, but also includes computing/coding/engineering and that many other factors contribute to it.

We have added all the resources to this website, including the presentation to deliver the workshop, which contains notes. It can be delivered by teachers, other educators, and science communicators. If you just wanted to play the boardgame or the PictoBlox game, there are presentations that give instructions and the background to the science. We’ve also given some suggestions for gathering feedback from the participants. Please do spread the word- and tweet us @evo_nano with some pictures if you use the resource- we would love to see it in action.