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In this activity, learners explore the "nuts and bolts" of gene chips. Learners construct a simple model of a DNA microarray (also known as gene chips) and learn how microarrays can be used to identify and treat disease--including cancer. This resource includes references and an explanation of microarrays.

Quick Guide

Preparation Time:
30 to 45 minutes

Learning Time:
45 to 60 minutes

Estimated Materials Cost:
$1 - $5 per student

Age Range:
Ages 14 - 18

Resource Types:
Activity, Lesson/Lesson Plan, Model


Materials List (per student)

  • 6 screws or bolts that are each unique in size
  • peg board or small board with holes drilled
  • masking tape and marker to label the screws
  • 2-4 corresponding nuts for each screw
  • film cans or other small container


  • Engineering and Technology
    • Engineering
      • Bioengineering/Biomedical Engineering
    • Technology
      • Medical Technology
  • Life Sciences
    • Cells
    • Heredity and Genetics
      • Human Genetics
      • DNA Structure and Function
    • Human Body
      • Health and Nutrition
      • Medicine
  • The Nature of Technology
    • Technology and Society
      • Impacts of Technology

Informal Categories

  • Model Building


To use this activity, learners need to:

  • see
  • read
  • touch

Learning styles supported:

  • Involves teamwork and communication skills
  • Involves hands-on or lab activities


This resource is part of:

Access Rights:

  • Free access


  • Yu, Julie


  • All rights reserved, Exploratorium, 2007

Funding Sources:

  • National Science Foundation, 0610238
  • National Science Foundation, 0925383