Students from Samcara Lab at KMD Compete at the Biodesign Challenge Summit 2020

Samcara Lab represented the Keio University Graduate School of Media Design [KMD] at the 2020 international Biodesign Challenge (BDC) Summit, where they were among 44 other finalists who showcased their work during the online event from June 15-19.

The Biodesign Challenge (BDC) is a student competition that partners students with biologists, artists, and designers to envision, create, and critique emerging biotechnology. This year, universities from up to 12 countries spanning the globe participated in the summit despite the constraints of the recent health crisis.

The team, consisting of graduate students Hannah Nolasco, Olivia Peralta, and Lawrence Quest, are all members of Samcara Lab, a Think Tank led by Professor Matthew Waldman. The students explored ways of bridging art, design, and biology and interviewed experts from academia, industry, and the arts to develop their project. The outcome, MODULUS, is a speculative design project that aims to create a social conversation around the topic of bioethics, synthetic biology, and morphological freedom in relation to human identity and human rights. It touches upon topics of transhumanism, bioethics, morphological freedom, human identity, dignity, and synthetic biology. 

This year’s virtual summit featured student project videos and live Q&A’s between the team and the BDC judging panel, which consisted of over 50 leading entrepreneurs, curators, artists, designers, and scientists. Keynote speakers included David Benjamin, Founding Principal of The Living and Associate Professor at Columbia GSAPP, and Annalee Newitz, award-winning science fiction author and journalist, who chatted with Torie Bosch, Editor of Future Tense. Both speaking sessions were held on Friday, June 19th.

The universities were all in competition to receive awards, including the grand prize, the Glass Microbe, which is passed down each year from team to team. This year’s sponsored prizes included the MANA Prize for the Future of Beauty and the Science Sandbox Prize for Public Engagement, sponsored by the Simons Foundation.

Past BDC teams have turned their projects into venture-backed companies and have collectively raised over $2.5 million in funds. Their projects and designs have won awards including the H&M Global Change Award and the National Geographic Chasing Genius Award. They have also exhibited at museums, galleries, and design festivals around the world, including Dutch Design Week, NYCxDesign, London Design Festival, the Tech Museum, and more.


About the Biodesign Challenge

The Biodesign Challenge (BDC) is an international student competition and educational program that partners high school and university students with artists, designers, and scientists to imagine, create, and critique the future of biotechnology. During the academic year, students develop bold and feasible projects that use biotechnology to address pressing issues or to critique biotechnology’s impact on society. To learn more about the BDC Summit 2020, visit their website.


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