Bio-Link Depot collects, cleans and stows scientific equipment for teachers to repurpose in the classroom. The nonprofit organization stores equipment at Foothill College and at another warehouse in Oakland.
Abizar Lakdawalla, Bio-Link Depot volunteer, said the group primarily collects used equipment from biotech companies in the area. Bio-Link Depot has distributed incubators, ovens, centrifuges, tissue culture cabinets, biosafety cabinets, automatic pipettes, reagent models and calorimeters over the years.
Every other month, the organization hosts an open house, which teachers can attend and select whatever equipment they want at no charge. The service is first-come, first-served, and teachers often bring their students along to help load the supplies from what Lakdawalla called a “mini Costco.”
“The teachers are very committed to getting science into the classrooms,” he said.
Teachers from Mountain View High, Los Altos High, San Jose State, San Francisco State and other schools and community labs regularly pick up materials from Bio-Link Depot.
Bree Grillo-Hill, an assistant professor at San Jose State who runs a cell biology lab, said she regularly collects materials from Bio-Link Depot and volunteers for the organization in her spare time.
“For the first year that my lab was running, we went every time,” she said.
Grillo-Hill’s lab is two years old now, so she doesn’t need as much equipment as she used to, but she’s still picking up consumable lab materials such as pipettes and test-tubes. She has 13 students working in her lab this summer, researching how the acid levels in cells can change cellular behavior and whether those changes in cellular behavior are related to diseases like cancer.
“(Bio-Link Depot) lets me use my budget to pay my students to work in my lab, not buy equipment,” she said. “That’s a big deal for our students, because if I couldn’t pay them, they would have to get another summer job and they wouldn’t have the same learning opportunities.”
Lakdawalla noticed that in the past year, there have been more teachers than usual interested in gathering supplies. He is not sure what has caused the uptick, but he thinks that the Trump administration might have something to do with the program’s growing popularity.
“We’re calling it the Trump effect,” he said. “There’s a reaction to an anti-science sentiment, and maybe the parents, kids or teachers are getting more interested in science.”
The organization hopes to branch out into international donations eventually.
“Even things like plastic test-tubes that we take for granted are scarce there,” Lakdawalla said of some countries. “We have an incredible excess here, so how do we take advantage of that?”