110517 Gene Machine1

Instructor Dillon Gary leads students at Howard Middle School in a lab activity aboard the Greenwood Genetic Center's Gene Machine mobile science lab.

CHRISTOPHER HUFF, T&D

Greenwood Genetic Center’s Gene Machine rolled into the city last week, exposing students at Robert E. Howard Middle School to opportunities in the fields of genetics and biotechnology.

The mobile science lab gave kids the chance to participate in a hands-on activity to learn about current technologies and lab skills.

“This is an outreach program so we’re trying to make sure that students in South Carolina at middle schools and high schools have the appropriate equipment to really reach the standards they’re set to and to try and educate them with some things they might not have in their home schools,” said Dillon Gary, lead instructor and outreach coordinator for the Greenwood Genetic Center.

“We’re trying to give them something they don’t typically get on a daily basis,” he said.

The premise of the lab activity was a simulation of a forensic investigation related to shellfish allergies.

“Fun,” seventh-grader Aliana Myers said of the lab activity. She said she one day wants to be a veterinarian and vet pharmacist and own her own business.

“It was cool. I liked doing the lab with the crab meat and imitation crab meat,” seventh-grader Alex Bucharme said. “It was fun.”

He said he wants to go into mechanical engineering or nuclear engineering when he’s older.

“I really did like it and our instructor,” seventh-grader Semaj Akins said.

She said she might pursue a career related to science, but right now she really wants to be an actress.

With proviso funding from the S.C. Department of Education, the Greenwood Genetic Center has expanded its outreach educational programs to serve more students, especially focused on those in Abbeville trial districts, including Orangeburg Consolidated School District 5.

The outreach program annually serves more than 6,000 students across the state. With the additional funding and resources, the center expects to reach approximately 50 percent more students this school year.

Founded in 1974, the Greenwood Genetic Center is a nonprofit organization advancing the field of medical genetics and caring for families impacted by genetic disease and birth defects.

Contact the writer: chuff@timesanddemocrat.com or 803-533-5543.

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