CCAC holds “Digging for DNA Biotech Bootcamp” for middle school students

Article by: CCAC Public Relations

PITTSBURGH-The Community College of Allegheny County's Allegheny Campus recently hosted a day-long educational camp that taught students entering sixth through eighth grades all about DNA. In the Digging for DNA Biotech Bootcamp, students engaged in fun hands-on learning activities, such as creating models and investigating a "crime scene." The program is made possible through the National Science Foundation BioMaS (Biotechnology, Math & Sciences) grant program in conjunction with the CCAC Educational Foundation and Science Club. Interest in the field along with the popularity of the camp, which has been held every summer for more than two decades, continues to grow.

"When we first started, DNA was relatively new; now it's the big thing in biology. The students are always very enthusiastic, and many of them come back year after year," said Sandra Callan, assistant instructor and chair, CCAC Biology Department. She has been leading the camp with Sandra Bobick, coordinator, CCAC BioMaS Learning Community, for more than 12 years.

After constructing DNA models out of paper and beads, students took part in "Who's DNA was left behind?" The activity used electrophoresis, which is the same lab technique used by law enforcement when searching for criminals. The technique enabled the students to compare DNA samples and thereby determine the "guilty" party. The campers also extracted DNA from fruit, as well as their own DNA for safekeeping. In addition, the students learned how living things can help clean up the environment through bioremediation. All activities took place in a CCAC Biology lab, with faculty members and students from the BioMaS program assisting.

"It's a fun day, and they get to use the same equipment that we use in the college lab," said Bobick. "The kids really enjoy themselves, and when they leave they know something about the structure of DNA."

To learn more about the National Science Foundation BioMaS Workforce Collaborative program, which enables students to earn a Certificate or Associate of Science in Biotechnology at no cost, visit:

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