BioBuilder Brings Professional Research Tools Like RStudio to High School Bioengineers

by Natalie Kuldell / Executive Director, BioBuilder
Adam Santone / Data Science Consultant, BioBuilder

The Challenge


The COVID-induced changes in education led BioBuilder to reimagine its curriculum. We wanted our online programming to stay true to the core of what BioBuilder teaches, namely:

  • A team-based approach to creative problem solving
  • Legitimate biotechnology skill building
  • Meaningful data analysis
  • Professional quality communication
  • Our new programs have sustained and expanded our goal of providing life-changing science education for all. One silver lining from the upending of everyone’s school plan has been the positive impact we make with BioBuilder’s online content that includes the integration of RStudio into our programs.

    “Truth be told, we’ve had a longstanding skepticism about accomplishing our learning goals remotely and through online platforms. But we’ve found RStudio can bring a 'thinking part and doing part' to our online programs.”

    - Natalie Kuldell - BioBuilder

    Our Solution


    BioBuilder now regularly offers three week sprints of online instruction in synthetic biology and biodesign. Students explore computational and creative thinking through guided instruction with industry-standard data science tools, including RStudio. From these programs, students gain meaningful insight regarding the ability of bioengineering solutions to address complex problems, how code-based approaches to data analysis and visualization overcome common limitations of software, and how effective scientific communication relies on principles of integrity, design, and clarity.

    RStudio Cloud Helped Us Connect


    We saw that there was a great need for teachers and students to connect to one another and not feel so isolated in these efforts. So the online collaborative platform that RStudio Cloud provided was a tremendous asset. In our opinion, providing access to a real-world tool like RStudio allowed our students to develop and transfer their analytic skills to other courses, carrying them forward into college and their careers.

    How RStudio Cloud has Helped Us


    RStudio was leveraged to share data, perform analysis and provide visualization scripts. R Markdown files were created to integrate R code and instructional text. These files were then rendered as HTML files for display on the web. Students created personal RStudio.cloud accounts, and were then granted access to instructor-developed coding resources that they could edit and learn with their own copy of the code with no danger of overwriting the original source material. Students applied the instructor’s materials to their research projects then created original analyses and visualizations in the context of their unique synthetic biology context. This gave students the ability to integrate and display instructional text, related R code, and the output of the code such as plots and results of statistical analyses.

    About BioBuilder


    BioBuilder brings tomorrow’s science to today’s classrooms. By turning cutting-edge science and engineering into teachable modules, we open minds and doors into the world of STEM education for students and educators alike. Our curriculum is based on the undergraduate curriculum in synthetic biology that is taught at MIT.

    In 2007 with NSF support and the partnership of award-winning high school teachers, BioBuilder began converting modern research questions into hands-on laboratory content and problem-based learning modules that align with national science standards. Established as an independent 501c3 in 2011, BioBuilder supports teachers and students in nearly every US state and more than 30 countries around the world.

    To complement our flagship classroom curriculum, textbook and lab kits, BioBuilder has traditionally offered three out-of-school-time programs: the BioBuilderClub, the High School Apprenticeship Challenge, and our Summer Professional Development for teachers.

    BioBuilder also runs a Learning Lab inside the entrepreneurial community of LabCentral in Cambridge, MA, bringing science education into a place where science is happening and enabling us to expand our year-round programming.

    RStudio provides open source and enterprise-ready professional software for data science teams using R and Python.