Dystopian world meets molecular biology in UDSO Challenge

Middle school camp registration opens February 28

Imagine a future world where science and technology have fallen from memory. In one small peaceful fishing village called Udso, residents rely on the river to supply their everyday needs, but the water has taken on a strange look and smell. Villagers are getting sick and even dying from drinking the river water. Only a handful of people have access to a science lab that could help them find answers before it’s too late.

Middle schoolers enter this scenario during UDSO Challenge, a weeklong summer day camp at the HudsonAlpha Institute for Biotechnology. During camp, young scientists work together and apply basic molecular biology techniques to design a bioindicator that detects a water pollutant in the fictitous town. Throughout the week, students use notes left behind by a researcher who succumbed to a mysterious water-borne illness. Using the notebook, tools and equipment they find in the lab, the students work in teams to build a system that can let Udso townspeople know when their water is safe to drink.

Max“UDSO Challenge really inspired me to explore science more,” said Max Shaw, a tenth grader at Randolph School in Huntsville. Max attended UDSO in 2015 and plans to return to HudsonAlpha for the high school Summer Short Course program this summer. “Camps at HudsonAlpha have made what I learn in biology class come alive.”

Before attending UDSO camp, middle school students must have previously attended HudsonAlpha’s basic camp, Code of Life. Code of Life camp introduces participants to DNA and basic lab equipment and skills which allows them to build glow-in-the-dark bacteria. Students who complete the Code of Life camp are eligible to participate in two additional advanced camps: UDSO Challenge and I Want to Work in a Lab Coat. I Want to Work in a Lab Coat introduces campers to the experience of working in a biotechnology laboratory by investigating the tools, techniques and science behind modern biotech careers.

Registration for the popular HudsonAlpha middle school camps opened at 8 am on February 28. Code of Life camp registration is full, but the waitlist is open through the registration form.