Your support and generosity has been absolutely amazing! Thank you for joining our community and helping us bring Bento Lab to life.
What is Bento Lab?
Bento Lab is a DNA analysis laboratory. With Bento Lab, you can take a biological sample, extract its DNA, and conduct a simple genetic analysis.
Bento Lab combines the essential tools for molecular biology, which are used by scientists everyday.
1 - A centrifuge extracts DNA from a biological sample (saliva, meat, hair follicles, etc)
2 - A thermocycler targets a specific piece of DNA and make millions of copies
3 - An illuminated gel unit visualises the DNA by size and you interpret the results
What can I do with Bento Lab?
With Bento Lab, you can conduct simple DNA analysis.
For example, you can explore your genetic make-up:
- See if your taste buds detect bitter flavours by testing your variation of the PTC gene
- Check if you are built for endurance by testing your variation of the "athlete" gene ACTN3
- Test if you are likely to be lactose intolerent
- Explore how blood group genotyping works
You can examine your food at a molecular level
- Test a hamburger to see if it contains horse meat
- Investiagte your beer for bacteria that spoil it
- Identify genetically modified organisms (GMOs) and learn about genetic engineering
You can characterise biodiversity
- Extract ancient DNA from fossils
- Test the gender of birds from a feather or a spot of blood
- Identify species with DNA barcoding
Get research done
- Equip your lab with functional, compact equipment
- Collect samples in the field and check if you have enough DNA for sequencing
- Combine DNA parts into circuits, and verify your result
- Start an iGEM team at your high school, university, or science club ...and much, much more!
Who is Bento Lab for?
Bento Lab is for anyone who wants to work with DNA. It is a compact, fun, professional laboratory.
We asked more than 500 people how they would use Bento Lab. Here are some examples!
- Field scientists looking for easy-to-carry equipment
- Citizen scientists solving social problems
- Mycologists and foragers
- Farmers and Veterinary students
- Designers and Artists
- Brewers checking their yeast strains
- Chefs interested in molecular gastronomy
- Bioscience students taking their work home
- Teachers sharing hands-on practicals with their students
- Curious folk with an interest in DNA!
Does Bento Lab work?
Bento Lab has emerged from two years of prototyping and workshops with scientists, students, makers, citizen scientists, and artists. We have run demos and workshops at science festivals, community spaces, universities, schools and MakerFaires all over the world.
Last September, we sent out Bento Lab prototypes to our beta testers. Their feedback has helped us design our new improved model for Kickstarter. Let us introduce you to some of our beta testers:
Gianpaolo Rando, brewer and citizen scientist in Switzerland
Stephane Boyer, field researcher and lecturer in New Zealand
David Harries, mycologist and citizen scientist in West Wales
Kevin Chen, entrepreneur and community lab founder in Canada
Support hands-on genetics for classrooms
We are already working with students, teachers and schools. Your support can help this community grow! Later this year, we want to conduct a pilot programme to bring hands-on genetics to the classroom. We have many ideas, such as trying the Code Club model, and we need your help to make this happen.
- Support us and back the project. Even £1 helps design teaching materials!
- Share the idea widely with your network
- Get in touch if you are an education organisation looking to partner with us!
Pledge £350, give a lab to a class
If you wish you had access to Bento Lab as a teen, consider pledging on behalf of a classroom who can't afford one. You can give a Bento Lab directly to a school in the pilot programme with the Classroom Bento pledge.
Danielle Fountain, Head of Science and Ian Bowkett, Senior Science Technician, King Solomon Academy
What do I get?
We are offering Bento Lab in two flavours: the Lab-Only Edition for people who have scientific experience and who own the essential accessories such as pipettes and reagents. For first-timers, you can add a Starter Kit to your Bento Lab, which provides everything you need to learn genetics hands-on.
Bento Lab [Lab Only Edition]
If you already know molecular biology and you have access to the reagents, but you have always yearned for a stylish all-in-one DNA laboratory, this is the lab for you. This includes:
- Bento Lab
- Power Cable
- Gel Electrophoresis Unit / Blue Light Transilluminator
- Bento Lab Handbook
Starter Kit [Add-On]
The Bento Lab Starter Kit contains contains 10 successive mini-projects to go from learner to researcher, and enough reagents for your learning journey and your first experiments. This includes:
- “Getting Started with Bento and DNA” booklet
- Reagents to cover your learning journey and your first experiments
- DNA extractions reagents (15 experiments)
- PCR reagents (15 experiments)
- DNA analysis reagents (15 experiments)
- Primer kits determined by backers
- A laboratory pipette (20uL)
- Two boxes of pipette tips
- Sterile cotton swabs for collecting DNA
- Learning community and support
- Skype office-hours for at least 6 months
Once the campaign has ended, we will work with our backers to decide which genetic analyses the starter kit should include - you can vote on your preferred experiments. For examples of possible experiments, see the section on "What can I do with Bento Lab".
Do you have detailed specifications?
Indeed we do.
Our favourite support pledges
Every £1, $1, €1 or ¥1 helps! We would love to send you some of these rewards, including a design booklet (digital download), Bento Lab T-Shirt, or a fabulous black+blum Bento Lab lunchbox.
So you want more than 1 reward? You can add additional items to your pledge level by simply choosing the item(s) you would like and then following the instructions below to add to your pledge!
Add-on Instructions: To add an add-on to your pledge, follow these steps:
1 - Press the 'Manage Your Pledge' Button above. If you have not pledged yet, it will say 'Back this Project'.
2 - Increase your pledge in the 'Pledge Amount' box by the total of the add-ons you want to add.
3 - After the end of the Kickstarter campaign you will receive a survey that will ask you questions so that you can explain how you would like the add-on money assigned.
Why is Bento Lab important?
Biology is a technology that defines us. It creates medicine, food and enjoyment. It touches every aspect of life, it surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the planet together...
Yet only a small number have access to molecular biology laboratories and specialist knowledge. And this is a problem caused by
- Closed, expensive devices
- Hardware and software that’s difficult to use
- The “intimidation” factor - “experts” vs “the rest of us”
We often impose boundaries on subjects: art and science, biology and technology, STEM and the humanities. This makes it difficult to develop hands-on scientific literacy. It should not be like this - science and biology are a fundamental part of human culture. With Bento, we reclaim biology as a participatory science that’s open and enjoyable for everybody.
What is the budget?
We are coming on Kickstarter to support the production of the new model of Bento Lab. We have teamed up with experienced engineers and we have redesigned Bento Lab based on our beta testers feedback. It’s time for our first manufacturing run.
The money raised through Kickstarter will cover the cost of manufacturing set-up, safety testing, materials, insurance and shipping.
We are a small team passionate about bringing biology to everyone. We have successfully won funding to support prototyping and beta testing so far.
We are now asking for your support to help us do our first manufacturing run of the new model and make Bento Lab available to everyone.
Who are you?
We are a group of 6 scientists and engineers, designers and educators from 4 different countries. Collectively we’ve brought products to market, hosted citizen science and bio-art workshops, worked in university laboratories and in DIYbio spaces. We’re based at Makerversity in London and we think making biology research affordable and accessible to everybody is an awesome idea. We hope you do too!
Bethan, Philipp, Nick, Matt, Peter and Hannah
Is Bento Lab safe to use?
Safety is a key priority. Bento Lab complies with safety regulations for laboratory hardware (EN61010-1, EN61010-2-010, EN61010-2-020). Before shipping, we’ll submit Bento Lab to our safety partner for review.
Bento Lab is designed for safety and ease-of-use, but it is not a toy. It comprises a high voltage electrophoresis unit, a PCR thermocycler that can reach temperatures of 120°C and a 19,200g centrifuge. Safe use of the equipment requires that you follow the detailed instructions and warning-labels included with the kit.
The same is also true for the reagents and supplies in the starter kit. As long as you wear gloves, and follow the safety instructions provided, you are perfectly safe. Usually, the worst result is your experiment failing. However, our most important safety message is: if you are ever unsure, get in touch for help and we will happily give assistance.
Over the years, we have benefitted immensely from the generosity and innovativeness of the Open Source, Open Science, DIYbio and Biocommons community. We stand on the shoulders of giants such as Hackteria, the fantastic OpenPCR project, the iGEM community, and many, many others.
We want to document the project well, so we are giving ourselves a runway. We are planning to release the firmware source code, the electronic specifications and CAD files of the functional device (more suitable for readily-available materials!) into the public domain by the end of 2016.
First in line is the source code and documentation of the beta devices. We have spent a long time to create a comprehensive, event-driven GUI system for the Teensy / Arduino board and we can’t wait to see how other projects can use this. Here are some examples (note that these are from the beta device screen, which has a much lower resolution compared to the new Bento Lab release).
Risks and challenges
We will do our absolute best to deliver Bento Lab on time and on spec. Our engineering and design team has worked on multiple successful Kickstarter projects. Peter was part of the team that released Touchboard, Matt is a Chartered Mechanical Engineer who worked on parts for Airbus, and Nick has worked with clients like Kodak, Fujifilm and Procter & Gamble. Our safety partners at Planned Finish have extensive experience testing the safety of laboratory equipment, and our manufacturing partners at WD Engineering Solutions make parts for Jaguar. Our experience means we know how to manufacture and deliver a Kickstarter funded project.
We have been conservative with our delivery estimates. We know that there will be challenges ahead and we have accounted for problems that might arise. We are committed to keeping you informed of our progress in the months following the campaign.
We are excited to see what you will do with Bento Lab, and we will be working tirelessly to make sure you get it on time. For more information, or if you have any questions email us any time at firstname.lastname@example.org.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter