PLASTIC DNA FOR BIOLOGY LEARNING KIT
with MIT Edgerton Center, 2009
Prof. J. Kim Vandiver (Director of the MIT Edgerton Center (Biology Curriculum Developer at MIT Edgerton Center)
The Vandivers designed an interactive DNA/RNA learning kit using LEGOs. I worked with the Vandivers to redesign their DNA Learning Kit components for injection molding, radically reducing the assembly time. The Vandivers ordered molds and have built hundreds of kits. US Patent No. D745,934.
I used mechanical models to characterize compliant mechanisms and used 3D printing to rapidly iterate and refine the designs, testing many variations in parallel. The kits have been in production since 2015 and are being distributed to classrooms throughout Massachusetts as part of the Edgerton Center Mind & Hand Alliance.
A primary focus of the design was the development of three types of joints that represent three different types of chemical bonds. The hydrogen bond required multiple rotational degrees of freedom, which enable the DNA strands to form a helix. This was developed as a clip-in ball and socket joint (top left). The phosphate-phosphate bond should have a single rotational degree of freedom and was developed as a removable cylindrical cantilevered snap-fit (middle left). The sugar-phosphate bond is covalent, developed as a one-time permanent snap fit using a tapered rectangular profile cantilever snap-fit joint.