Captain Underpants, BioBuilder and iGEM: Preparing Children for The Biotech Century

Melvin’s Li’l Scientist Wristwatch had a built-in DNA extractor. Melvin inserted the filthy toenail into his watch and programmed a complete extraction procedure while the Turbo Toilet 2000 chased him back through town…

As Melvin ran screaming, his watch quickly pulverized and sonicated the toenail cells, removed their membrane lipids, proteins and RNA, and purified and isolate a single strand of Mr. Krupp’s DNA.

When Melvin reached his bedroom laboratory, he quickly fed the results into his Mecha-Computer, which identified themetallo-organic, “super-powered” substance and began replicating it in a saline gel solution. The gel percolated slowly as it oozed into a glass beaker. — Dav Pilkey, Captain Underpants and the Tyrannical Retaliation of the Turbo Toilet 2000 (2014)

Captain Underpants is not a name generally associated with biotechnology. Yet, this wildly successful (70 million copies sold worldwide) series of children’s novels may be the first exposure many children have to biotech.

The Carlson Curve: Source: synthesis.cc
Gel Electrophoresis. Source: Huntington’s Outreach Project for Education at Stanford

I’m the co-author of What’s Your Bio Strategy and write fiction and non-fiction about life sciences technologies.

I’m the co-author of What’s Your Bio Strategy and write fiction and non-fiction about life sciences technologies.