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Branscome and her teammates devised "Journey Through the Human Genome," which features a three-dimensional, DNA model made of doll heads (just for the fun of it) held together by magnetized paint and wires. Using metal pieces, contestants race down the molecule as fast as they can, trying to earn the most points by correctly answering questions that reflect the lectures' content. Simpler questions along the DNA bases award five points and critical-thinking questions along the railing are worth 10 points.
Branscome's methods for finding and choosing her unconventional materials portend a career as a budding scientist.
"When I think of things to do, they are usually a little off base and people don't think they are going to work," she says. "But somehow I research and find the way."
She found magnetic paint online and decided, "well, if you paint something that's round and put it all together with metal wiring then the magnets [game pieces] will stick to the game board and then you can play on it." As for the team's curious choice of doll heads: "It just came to me, but I think it works," she says.
The team's efforts paid off with a finished assignment and better comprehension of the material.
"The way that the game, the DVD, and the questions all come together have made it a lot easier for me to understand the human genome and DNA," she says.
Branscome's classmates were equally successful in coming up with creative board games. One team invented "The Building Blocks of Life," a wooden puzzle that yields a picture of a DNA molecule when pieced together. To complete the picture, players read questions from the lectures found on the bottom of each wooden block and match them to the appropriate answers printed inside the shallow game box. Another team invented a game called "Jumbo Genetics around the World," in which players answer rhyming questions and work their way around a world map printed on a shower curtain. A fourth group designed a flat board game called "Saved at the Centromere," in which contestants vie to be the first to reach the center of a chromosome by coursing down the chromosome's four arms, answering lecture questions as they go.
The project was such a hit, Breeden may ask next year's classes to develop new games, based on the Holiday Lectures DVDs on evolution (2005) and stem cells (2006).
As to whether any of these games could be marketed by companies such as Parker Brothers or Milton Bradley, Breeden doesn't dismiss the notion.
"There's certainly potential," she says.