Q & A: Sophomore Wins National Biology Contest

By Sania Choudhary


Sophomore Emily Takara’s biology team, GIY Bio Buddies, was recently awarded the Outstanding Field Research Award and the Runner-Up Award at the 2019 Biodesign Challege Summit.

Where did the idea of the Bio Buddies Kit come from? What was the inspiration? We found out about the BioDesign competition first. We started playing around the the bio materials, the materials that you grow. You know the drink Kombucha? It grows a layer, and when it dries you can use that, and that is a bio material. The bacteria in it is used to grow that material. And then we used that for different activities. From that we decided to use that to make a project instead of really designing something. So it started from playing around with the materials first, then working on the project.

What was the process of making it the kit? We began doing our own little activities just to get familiar with the materials, and then we turned those into actual activities of the kit. We got all of the supplies needed to grow the bio materials and designed the box and ordered it online. Then we put it all together. For the actual competition, we needed to make a poster and presentation and just be ready to display the project, so we did that.

What’s in the box? There are the materials and instructions for how to grow the bio materials and play with them. Along with creating your own toys, it also has the journey of growing and making your own materials. It also has different activities. 

What are some of the materials? There is Kombucha leather. It’s not leather, it’s just called that because it’s made from Kombucha. Then there is mycelium, which is from the roots of mushrooms that grow on molds and then you bake it and a solid forms. 

What do these activities include? They are like craft activities, such as making paper dolls.

So there’s a lot of DIYing? Yes, that was one of our main points. It’s basically a crafting kit that’s just very eco-friendly. 

How long did the process of making the kit take? We started around October of 2018 and the actual summit, where you present, was in June, so around eight months.

Did everything go as planned? Were there any drawbacks? Since we were growing the materials, sometimes it did not work out as intended. But in general, everything went well. 

How many people contributed to the project? Who were they? The BioBuddies team consists of three people. There is me! There is Trisha, who is a sophomore from Monte Vista High School, and Anne, who is from Fremont High School. Anne is a junior, so a year older than us. Our instructor is my mom.

What/who inspired you to join the competition? My mom! She found out about it through connections.

What was your favorite part of this project? The summit because we got to put our project out and talk with people and present. But the journey was good too.

How many people do you present in front of? Oh, there were so many people! It’s random educators from around the world, so there were hundreds of people. You are in this room, and there are a few of the judges, and there is lots of room, and you present. If you move on, then you present in a conference room in front of more people, and so on. 

Was this kit exactly what you had envisioned in the beginning? I don’t think we had a vision in the beginning, to be honest. We just kept adding to the project until we ended up with the kit.

What are your future plans with the bio buddies kit? What do you hope to accomplish further down the line? We were planning on selling it, but we might just do informational videos. We might also try developing it more.