DIY Lab Equipment Design Contest Under Way
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Tekla Labs seeks to improve global science research through shared designs
By Kate Lovero
Meeting global challenges requires breakthroughs from the entire global scientific community — not just a select set of well-funded universities in industrialized countries. Scientists in developing regions, afflicted communities and social entrepreneurs have the potential to contribute diverse and novel solutions, yet they often lack the resources to advance their own scientific research.
Limited access to standard lab equipment is one of the greatest barriers to conducting research around the world. Due to the high cost of commercial lab equipment, underfunded science communities rely on donated, used equipment that is costly to ship and near impossible to repair. Often, because of scarcity and limited donations, they simply aren’t able to conduct experiments that require even the most basic of lab equipment.
This fall, Tekla Labs, a nonprofit organization lead by researchers at UC Berkeley and UCSF, has teamed up with the popular online DIY hub, Instructables (www.instructables.com), to hold a competition for lab equipment designs. The competition, called BuildMyLab, is open to all types of laboratory equipment designs, from the simple to the very complex, and is offering over $5,000 in prizes for the top submissions. There is even a special judges’ prize for the best “lab hack”—a quick solution to everyday challenges in the lab.
Tekla Labs has been tackling the lab equipment shortage by creating an online community for sharing designs to build high-quality lab equipment from locally available supplies. As part of the community, scientists everywhere can request equipment designs or share their own equipment blueprints. They can also ask questions about instructions or request modifications to designs to fit their resources and needs. This DIY approach empowers scientists worldwide to build their own infrastructure, creating a sustainable solution to the lab equipment shortage that can be adjusted to meet the requirements of scientists in any setting around the world.
Because the submission to the competition will go toward building the equipment design repository of the Tekla Labs website, an additional judges’ prize will be awarded to the best design for building a piece of laboratory equipment that the majority of scientists Tekla Labs has surveyed throughout Latin America and Africa need for their research.
The Instructables competition is open through December 16. Details can be found at www.instructables.com/contest/buildmylab.
And if you are interested in learning more about Tekla Labs, check out its website at www.teklalabs.org and become a member of the community!
Kate Lovero is a fifth-year student in the Neuroscience Graduate Program.