Summer camp has gone high-tech at CSU East Bay’s Concord campus. For a week, 60 Contra Costa County high school students attending Biotech Camp had an opportunity to explore a variety of areas in life sciences, including biofuels, forensics, disease, stem cells and bioethics.
A mixture of activities, speakers and field trips ensured that students saw various aspects of what it is to study and work in the biotechnology field. Students grew biofuel in a fermentation lab, played detective in a genetic forensics lab, viewed close up (and often alien looking) images of parasites and their effects, learned about converting skin cells into stem cells and debated bioethics. Through field trips, students saw biotech professionals in action at the Joint BioEnergy Institute, Amyris and John Muir Health.
The various biotech fields show great potential to address many of the world’s challenges. For example, students learned about genetically engineered yeast as a source for bio diesel. In absence of fossil fuels, biofuels have the strong potential to power trucks, airplanes, ships and other large vehicles, which are difficult to power under current battery or solar-based systems.
The camp was a chance to cultivate student interest in the life sciences. The hope is to encourage more students to pursue a university education in science, technology, engineering and math. Ultimately, the camp aims to produce future industry leaders in order to maintain California’s prominence as a center for innovation in numerous life science fields.
Hosted at CSU East Bay’s Concord campus, the Biotech Camp was made possible by a consortium of industry, high school, and community college partners, including the Contra Costa County Office of Education, Contra Costa Community College District and the Contra Costa Economic Partnership. BioRad Laboratories helped start the camp in 2004 – providing financial resources and hands-on lab activities. They continue to be instrumental to the camp success, along with John Muir Health and Chevron.