Aim of the project

The project look like making a sensor either for Arsenic detection, or for Coliform bacteria detection. But in fact, the aim of the project is more than just building a biodevice.

First, there is the real aim: building a device that could sense a contaminant in water. In the beginning of the semester, two sort of projects were submitted and we had to choose one. The first is Arsenic detection in water, The second is Coliform bacteria detection in water. Why detect these two things? Because they are a major coumpound of water pollution in the two regions where the people we work with are living. The people in Bangalore (India) are more interested in Arsenic detection, because the presence of Arsenic, from geological source or from industrial pollution, is nocive for human health. The exposure to small doses of Arsenic over a long time lead to diseases like skin troubles, digestive tract problems and cancers. The people in Yogyakarta (Indonesia) were more interested in coliform bacteria detection, because these bacterias coming mostly from fecal contamination are pathogens for human, causing serious diarrhea. Hence in both cases it is important to find a possibility to measure water contamination: it is a public health problem.

Then, we could wonder why building a new device, aren't there already many devices on the market measuring Arsenic or coliform bacteria contamination? Yes, we can find some, but many of these are expensive, or need a long time before having a result, or are not accessible to people like you and us, or are not reliable. The second aim of our project is to build something that is accessible and reproducible by those who could be interested in. This is done by the open-source informations we provide, by the publications we made on our blog, by the use of cheap and accessible materials and understandable protocols. The fact is that, more than exactly measring water pollution, we also want to raise awareness about water quality by allowing the devices for water analysis to be accessible for real people, so they realize how important it is to care about this liquid we need to live. As we finally choose to concentrate on Arsenic detection, we used a bacteria as a sensor that has been engineered by microbiology lab in UNIL to be used easily for humanitarian purposes.

This leads to an other aim of the project: integrate different domains and cooperate with different people. The goal is that we learn how to work as a group and also with people from different backgrounds. The cooperation takes place with the teams in Bangalore and in Yogyakarta, we disscussed with them, shared our experiences and tried to achieve a common purpose. We also worked as a team, learning to cease individualism and to integrate the knowledge of everyone. One aim is also that we disscuss with different scientific persons, because we have to use knowledge from many domains as biology, electronics, optics, legacy, environmental analysis... While cooperating with people, we also have to integrate the different domains we studied into one project. The project is for us the possibility to use for one goal, a dozen of different domains that were previously taught during our studies, and to understand the connexions and interactions between them.

Finally, the goal is also that we go out of the lab and go to the real world. This aim is in the project title: biodesign for a real world! We were all motivated about building a concrete device to face a problem that happens in the real world.