Regional coordinator: Dr Steven Hussey & Mr Sean Kruger, UP Makerspace.
The Biomaker initiative, funded by the UK’s Global Challenges Research Fund (GCRF), aims to build capacity in practical applications of open-source environmental sensors, 3D printing technology, Arduino micro-controllers and graphical programming that enthusiasts can implement in DIY projects without prior experience in how to code.
Prof. Jim Haseloff, a world-leading plant synthetic biologist at the University of Cambridge, developed the so-called Biomaker Challenge with his colleagues in which transdisciplinary teams of students and staff learn to use OpenSmart Arduino Rich Uno R3 kits and low-cost sensors and devices to build DIY bio-instruments, sensors or hardware for various practical applications in the biological and related fields. For a fraction of the cost of commercial equipment, Biomakers have designed field-deployable 3D-printed microscopes, microbial bioreactors, blood oxygenation systems and even yeast-counting imaging systems for home brewing, as documented on the Hackster developer community site.
The GCRF pump-priming funding has allowed Prof. Haseloff’s Biomaker activities to extend to African countries including Ghana, Egypt and Ethiopia at strategic institutions aside from the University of Pretoria. They disseminate Biomaker training and starter kits including a suite of Shenzhen-manufactured environmental sensors and low-cost devices, accompanied by useful online tutorials on how to programme DIY prototypes using simplified XOD graphical programming.