Embryo Project at Night of the Open Door

Spin the wheel of embryos and model early development with clay!

The Embryo Project (EP) engaged audiences of all ages at this year’s Night of the Open Door on ASU’s Tempe Campus on Saturday, February 27, from 4:00 to 9:00pm. This was the fourth year that ASU partnered with the Arizona SciTech Festival to put on Night of the Open Door.

Thousands of people took part in this year’s Night of the Open Door on Tempe campus, and the organizers and hosts created a fun time for all.

For the Embryo Project’s part, they hosted two activities: a wheel of embryos and a two-part clay modeling activity for early development. Both activities were designed to be fun and engaging for all audiences and also educational.

EP team members Alexis Abboud, Carolina Abboud, and Kelle Dhein led the night, joined by EP students and Biology and Society grads Cecilia ChouChristian RossChallie Facemire, and Erica O’Neil. Everyone cheered on participants as they tried to identify pictures of animal embryos, mounted on a spinning wheel. Successful guessers won stickers and those that needed a bit more help were treated to renditions of animal noises and actions.

By the end of the night, Kelle and Carolina, said, “Children and adults were shocked at the similarity between animals at the early embryonic stages. We got a kick out of seeing kids’ eyes get wide when they realized that they too had once looked like a shrimp.”

Early development at the embryonic stage is too small to see with the naked eye, so the EP team magnified the events with clay models. Children and adults started with a single cell (a ball of clay) before being walked through differentiation, gastrulation, and the formation of a blastula. Throughout, the EP-ers pointed out the genesis of stem cells, how quadruplets occur, and the thousands-fold replication of a single cell to form an entire organism. Next, participants moved on to model embryos at one month of development, learning about optic cups and auditory vesicles.

The activities and prizes were designed to connect people with the Embryo Project Encyclopedia, an online Open Access publication that increases scientific literacy in non-specialist audiences about reproductive and developmental biology. By the end of the night, hundreds of people had stickers and trading cards pointing them to the resource.

The Embryo Project looks forward to participating in Night of the Open Door next year!

More Information: Alexis Abboud (alexis.abboud@asu.edu)