It may look like an alien life form, but Biolumen Lab is indeed a classroom—an inflatable, cell-based one at that—for secondary school students to experience a week of science-based learning, generating curiosity and­ promoting science as a potential career path.

“Biolumen Lab is an experience, an environment and a place to learn and try out new ideas, through combining scientific and creative arts and methods of exploration. It allows people to get to grips with how our genes shape us,” notes project lead Ant Nevin. “This is done through extracting and sequencing DNA from plant and fungi. The resulting strings of numbers and letters are then used to control the light and sound environment of the Biolumen lab at the end of the week-long experience.”

Biolumen Lab is essentially a giant version of an organoid. Organoids are 3D cell cultures that include some features of the organ they represent—in this case the heart. The inflatable needed to represent the shape of a cell to tie in with the practical learning of the space.

The structure, built by Canvasland of Levin, New Zealand, uses pad eyes strategically placed to create random bulbous sections on the inflatable to represent the cell. Clear, round PVC windows were added to allow people to see the inside workings of the inflatable.

The project was recognized as a 2021 Award for Excellence Winner—Tents, Marquees and Inflatables category by OFPANZ, the Outdoor Fabric Products Association of New Zealand.


SIDEBAR

STRUCTURE: Biolumen Lab, built by Canvasland, Levin, NZ

FABRIC: Nylox 88

FABRIC SUPPLIED BY: Industrial Textiles, Auckland, NZ

FIRST INSTALLATION:Christchurch, NZ



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