The Lybbaverse / manual-arts-high-school  

I am a scientist


Lybba is thrilled to have just released the film I Am A Scientist, to inspire youth about the benefits of science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). Released in collaboration with The California Endowment, California Biotechnology Foundation, and the California Department of Education, the film explores how STEM education can open up career opportunities in the life sciences, particularly for students from disadvantaged socioeconomic backgrounds.

The film chronicles a day with students from L.A.s Manual Arts High School at the biohackathon that Lybba conceived of and created. Inspired by traditional hackathons by computer programmers and software developers, our biohackathon offered students a real-world DIY science experiment. Lybba’s partner, Wondros, captured the whole day on film, and this footage is the main backdrop of I Am A Scientist.

“The biohackathon was a hands-on, immersive experience that yielded palpable energy and excitement from the students. I was inspired by their imagination and wonderment as they explored outside of their comfort zone,” said Jesse Dylan, founder of Wondros and Lybba. “These students are genuinely passionate about pursuing careers in science, medicine, and research.”

Events like the biohackathon and films like I Am A Scientist strive to create the next generation of health and science leaders. “At the California Endowment, we know that health and academic achievement go hand in hand. This film gives students the opportunity to share how they’ve been inspired by STEM education and that’s the most effective way they can encourage their peers to consider the life science field as well. That’s how healthy communities are built,” said Kathlyn Mead, Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer of The California Endowment. “We want to help students find their passion and to get a sense for what’s possible in the future.”

Enjoy the film and spread the word!


View the press release for I Am A Scientist 

Learn more about Lybba's Biohackathon projects



What’s in a hexabox?


The California Endowment, the California Biotechnology Foundation, Lybba, and Wondros presented Biohackathon L.A. 2013, an immersive workshop to inspire students about the health and career benefits of STEM education and the life sciences. On behalf of the biohackathon hosts, the principals of design firm CITY/hall fabricated take-home kits for the students—“hexaboxes” that were informed by the experiment contained within them. Lybba is immensely pleased to present this interview with CITY/hall co-founders Jessica D’Elena and Lauren Rosenbloom, to learn more about them and the making of the hexaboxes.

How did the CITY/hall come about?

We've been collaborating since 2007 while Jessica was part of designer Lorraine Wild's Green Dragon Office and Lauren was working with Thom Mayne's Morphosis Architects. Jessica was Green Dragon's lead designer on the fifth installment of the Morphosis monographs and Lauren was her counterpart at Morphosis office. It was this project collaboration that shed light on our mutual interests. Jessica's focus is on graphic and environmental design, while Lauren's is on architecture, art direction, and set design for film. Synergized, they form our multi-disciplinary adventures within the design community. 

What inspired the creation of the hexaboxes for Biohackathon L.A. 2013?

A “recurring curiosity” within CITY/hall efforts is situated in the meaning and metaphor of the building blocks of design—more specifically, between the shared constructs of disciplines (such as biology and graphic design). Fascinated by the canons of design history and flirting with perspectives around the mapping of a human biotechnological future, we see our investigations as forming microcosmic elements to shape a macrocosmic picture. The spirit and intent of Biohackathon L.A. 2013 presented us with the perfect platform to continue this investigation.

The graphic language that emerged from the event's premise implied a visual conversation that human bodies (and others) are "designed" frameworks and conversely, "design frameworks" are living entities with a biological code—both derived from a set of basic forms whose exponential combinations produce an infinite number of unique identities. The letterform and the building have an embedded DNA, as the human DNA sequence are the blueprints for a biological construct. 

Bauhaus thought-leaders deconstructed all design frameworks into the elementary forms: circles, squares, and triangles—the celebrated starting points of art, design and architecture. So too, "bodies" have a building code in the two basic sugars and four enzymes of DNA.

To subtly acknowledge this relationship we determined the container for the biohackathon take-home kit would be six-sided, alluding to the basic building blocks of life itself. From here, the necessary components of the kit seemed to place themselves. An extruded hexagonal shape allowed us to place the pipettor down the center of the box, physically acting as the spine of the structure. The length of the pipettor dictated the height of the box, which allowed us to include five interior hexagonal shaped shelves for the remaining kit materials. 

How were they made, and were there any constraints or special considerations in their creation?

Shelves one and two included six hexagon-shaped coasters (which we've dubbed hexacoasters), which featured illustrated instructions for the students to continue their experiments independently after the workshop concluded. Each coaster also featured various iterations of the graphical language system we had composed for all of the printed matter.

Including a die-cut slit in each of the hexacoasters allowed students to create unique molecular sculptures by inserting the coasters into one another. This, along with the event poster, became a kind of semi-permanent artifact from the event that would remain with the students after the event concluded. 

The third shelf held the six 3cm petri dishes also provided for students to continue their experimentation post-event. Shelf four contained agar powder, and shelf five contained an array of graphical stickers the kids could use to decorate any surface or specifically to place on the lids of their petri dishes.

The graphical branding system developed for the event came literally out of a process of orchestrating, combining, and arranging the basic shapes of design—circles, squares, triangles—and "sequencing" them together in patterns to create an array of biological snowflakes, each entirely unique in its complexity and systematic design, yet all comprised from a basic set of common elements. When placed on the transparent lids of the petri dishes, a wonderful visual conversation about “what’s growing inside” begins to emerge. 

Was the poster similarly inspired?

While the kit, its contents, and all printed matter work as a cohesive system, the poster takes these ideas a step further to include the specificity of the city (in this instance, Los Angeles) as a systematic body made up of a basic set of building blocks and design elements.

We positioned the skyline of the city on the poster to geo-locate the event but oriented the photo on its side. This not only allows viewers, for a moment, to see the city as one would see a representation of a DNA sequence (via the building surface forms, contrasts in shadow, varying building heights, etc.), but it also visually echoes the columns of text on the opposite side of the poster, also intended as a lead-in to the graphical look at a DNA sequence. 

We used a CMYK color palette for obvious reasons: the four primary "enzymes" from which all possible printed colors are derived. In both the title text and DNA graphical snowflakes, the overlay effect of these primary colors reiterates the monochrome from which all plurality and complexity arise. 

Biohackathon L.A. helps youth shape the future


From the second Mr. John Choi’s high school biology class stepped off their school bus and into a conference room turned laboratory, they became scientists. 

“My students entered an amazing gateway into the world of science and it opened their eyes to the possibilities that are available to them,” said Mr. Choi.

Many students like those in Mr. Choi’s class crave inspiration and outlets to explore what their futures may have in store. When asked about career interests, the majority of students surprisingly mentioned professions that would enable them to improve health. In some instances, their drive to enter the health industry was connected to a family member with a chronic health issue.

While these students, and so many like them, think about a variety of career and academic paths, they don’t often see the connection between what learning science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) can have on their futures. There are many workforce development and education programs available to help students across California prepare for jobs that will follow the changing global economy. The problem is that students don’t have the resources to learn about what opportunities are available and don’t fully understand the impact of STEM education. 

The California Endowment, the California Biotechnology Foundation, Lybba, and Wondros posed a solution: Biohackathon L.A. 2013, an immersive workshop to inspire students about the health and career benefits of STEM education and the life sciences.

“The Biohackathon is a real game-changer for the students, who have insatiable curiosities,” said Mr. Choi.

Inspired by traditional hackathons, a term coined by computer programmers and software developers, the event was collaborative, educational, and interactive. A conference room at The Endowment’s L.A. office was taken over by pipettes, microcentrifuge tubes, DNA sample swabs and safety glasses. Led by LA Biohackers, the experience was tailored specifically for the students with the help of L.A.’s Promise Manual Arts High School in South L.A. The hands-on do-it-yourself experience let students test themselves for a hereditary "bitter taste" gene. Their genotypes were projected onto a wall, interpreted, and printed out to take home. 

“Hands-on experimenting and genuine inquiry is a really effective way to learn practical science,” said Romie Littrell, founder of LA Biohackers and curator at The Tech Museum of Innovation. “We were lucky to have all the necessary resources and instructors to do this with a full classroom. Each student had different instincts to approach and perform the experiment and, by working together and seeing all the different outcomes, failures and all, I think they got a better grasp of the scientific process.”

In addition to the science experiment, recent graduates from programs sponsored by the life science industry shared with students the many opportunities in the life sciences and the cross-application of such knowledge. Leaders from business and education painted the broader landscape of STEM education and pathways to help achieve career possibilities. 

“The California life science community supports several initiatives that create jobs, stimulate economic growth, and inspire future leaders to help save lives and promote sustainability,” said Kristie Grover, executive director of BIOCOM Institute. “Together with industry, our state’s learning Institutions, regional associations, and community programs are partnering to offer free resources that serve as a catalyst for increased growth and quality of life in California.”

“I was in your shoes once. I know the feeling of wanting to do great things, but now I know how to make it happen,” said Elvia Hernandez, a recent graduate who is beginning her career in life sciences. “My STEM background and workforce development program changed my life.”

Hernandez’s encouraging words resonated with the students.

Marlena Jackson, research assistant at a life science company and founder of NexGeneGirls, a science enrichment program for girls, asked students to think about the Biohackathon in terms of personal benefits and community health.

“The event was an incredible experience for my students and will definitely remain in their minds as they pursue a path in STEM. Having so many guest speakers and resources for internship information and STEM careers in general was a wonderful opportunity. Indeed, the networking potential was nothing short of marvelous,” said Mr. Choi. “The collaboration and unity of the scientific community is always a marvelous facet of science.”

The students were challenged to continue investing in STEM education, a path that will give them the tools to transform their future and improve their communities.

Reblogged from The California Endowment newsroom with permission of the authors.

A slideshow and interviews with our partners, designers, and biohackers are coming soon!