Integrated Human Practice & Gold
2. Visited water treatment plant in National Science Park for investigation and sampling, and inspired us to develop a smartphone app for our project.
3. Discussed organic culture farmland and fish farming, to discuss the potential to implement our device into these working spaces.
4. Co-organized Taiwan iGEM conference and attended the 5th Asia Pacific Conference, aiming to spread the influence of iGEM.
5. Participated in a competition held by the Ministry of Economic Affairs and won the bronze medal, showcasing the potential value of our farmland water protection project.
6. Cooperated with teams from USA, New Zealand, Netherlands, and China on the bio-mechanism problem, hardware design, and public engagement.
According to the definition of Human Practice from iGEM, each team should interact with the whole society, to figure out what the world lacks and to dedicate our ability to the needs. In our team, the concern of environment and health are the ultimate targets. The crisis triggered by Endocrine Disrupting Chemicals (EDCs) has not only be forgotten gradually by us after the Vietnam War since the contaminated regions are narrowed in certain places, few and few people pay attention to these dangerous chemicals.
(1) Visiting Institute of Environmental Engineering, NCTU
This summer, we visited researchers in Institute of Environmental Engineering, NCTU, whose study mainly focus on wastewater treatment. They reviewed our project and provided some suggestion for us.
1. Since enzyme producing technique is not yet mature enough to date, we should reinforce more on detection so that we can increase the efficiency of enzyme usage.
2. Agricultural wastewater has more than an imaginable amount of aerobic particles. Even if the water seems clean, it will still block the filter system in minutes. We should re-design our structure.
3.Activated carbon can only act well under the good water condition that is, containing only ions or extremely few molecules.
(2) Meet up with advisors, professors, and iGEM NCTU
In May 2017, we invited Assistant Professor Warren C. Ruder, PITT, Professor Wen-Liang Chen, NCTU and Professor Chao-Min Cheng , NTHU, to review our project. Meanwhile, we also shared our project with “NCTU iGEM” mutually. This meeting was held before we could start our plan, which halted us from rushing forward. We stopped, reflected and then adjusted our orientation and strategy:
1. Our project contains too many high techniques or skills like EIS, Monobody application, frozen cell technique, gold plating, IoT integrate, etc. Combining all of these together is somewhat complicated and never was there a team who successfully did so. However, it would be a standout if our team managed to pull it off. We should reconsider simplifying our project. On the other hand, every technique needs a lot of tests to fit new working environment or for a different application. With a limited time, it is hard to achieve.
2. The condition of wastewater is always harsh. To put an exquisite device to dispose of it with such a great amount remains problems to be solved. We should better consider some other more valuable target.
(1) The Wastewater treatment plant of Science Park
When we talk about water disposal, the first thing comes into our mind would be wastewater treatment plant (WTP) since most water that is contaminated or used by humanity would all eventually go to WTP. Thus, WTP becomes our primary target for practicing and working out our idea. In September, we went to WTP of National Science Park for investigation and sampling. There were three engineers in WTP who helped us realize the whole plant including monitoring station. We learned much about how WTP dispose of the wastewater step by step and also how they control the system:
1. Before entering the plant, nearly most wastewater has undergone treatment by each company. Actually, the inlet water is not that dirty as what we supposed but it still contains lots of metal ions and molecules that need to be rid of. And in these years, the main issue in WTP is ammonia nitrogen degradation. Targets like EDCs are not what WTP concern, engineer Chang said. EDCs’ concentration in wastewater is too low since the water coming in from all sorts of factories dilute it. The main harmful substances left are still a lot of ammonia nitrites and heavy metals added by Chang.
2. The visit to the monitoring station helped us a lot in dry lab design. This plant is one of the most novel plants which applies testing Ammonia nitrides disposal plant and an alto control system. This testing plant is built because of the rising attention of Ammonia nitrides and the alto control system installed for the purpose of reduction of complicated control steps. Unfortunately, the first renovation, again, implies that EDCs probably is not a priority WTP. However, the alto control system does make us realize the importance of automatic control system and IoT(internet of things). Since the engineers, all use the smartphone APP to receive first information of every disposal plant so it inspired us to develop an APP and we made it !!! On the other hand, Based on the prototype alto-control system we have seen there, we conceived an idea to combine alert, buzzer, e-mail, newsletter and a real-time website displayer etc., that is, the IoT concept, and we have finished the construction of e-mail and smartphone newsletter thanks to the techniques offered by the Ministry of Economic Affairs. The purposes of building IoT is simple - we can reduce the risk of mistake or omission. Also, we want to unify every controller, monitors, meter and everything that is involved all together so that it would be easier to manage and has a larger space to expand other functions; for example, adding varies sensors for different chemicals or even microbes.
(1) Visit organic farmers
We had two interviews with organic farmers. The first interviewees were the owner of three organic farms, and the crops include gourds, fruits, mushroom, cereal grain and leafy vegetables. We investigate the source of water and the used degree of fertilizer of their farms. The result shows that the farms locate on high terrain or higher altitude than the factories. Plus, the irrigating water won’t flow out to another area, and the fertilizer they use is farming residue. As a result, there is no doubt of pollution.
After changing the direction of our project, we had another interview which focuses on the management of organic agriculture. We tried to figure out what predicament the farmers face and whether the statistics reflect the fact or not. And the result seems favorable to our project for the reason that the certification of organic agriculture needs at least three years and cost ＄5000 per year. Such threshold is unfriendly to normal farmers and inefficient. Since there are many bottlenecks in the process of organic agriculture, nearly no profit can be earned from it. First of all, there are many uncontrolled plant diseases and insect pests and natural disasters. Moreover, these agricultural products are not improved Breeds. They not only have low yield but also have bad appearances. Furthermore, labor costs are really high, so they are much more expensive than normal agricultural products. There are too many drawbacks that violate the principle of market competition, and it’s difficult to apply. In consequence, it’s tough to attract farmers to join the ranks of organic agriculture. According to farmers’ dictation, the reason why they want to transform is that the idea, interest, and stable economic ability.
What we can do is to lower the threshold and the cost of an application so as to track for a long period and make transformation faster and easier. And this may attract many farmers to join the ranks of organic agriculture. Eventually, the farmers mentioned that it is hard to avoid contamination. As long as they use the water in the downstream of the river, it is impossible to get a license. Land in Taiwan is too small, so the farms are close to each other. Once there is a non-organic agriculture nearby, pesticide and fertilizer will pollute their own farm indirectly.
(2) Aquacultural base investigation
Through the visit to the fish farm, we understand more about seem-to-be-easy fish aquaculture, which is actually connected with a lot of techniques; aside from the application of new tech concepts, there are more experience heritage and mutual cooperation from neighborhood; for example, judging the typhoon’s impact on the fish farm from the path of typhoon, the fishermen should adopt different kinds of precaution measurements depending on whether the typhoon comes from the Pacific Ocean or the Philippine Sea, or they have to apply the concepts of food chains in order to shunt the water stream to different fish pools for water cleaning; it can increase the water cycle and decrease the water waste, and moreover avoid the pollution caused by water purification chemicals. These techniques cannot be learned from school education or textbooks; this kind of experience inheritance combines with the development new technology is what we aim to move forward on our traditional agriculture. It’s a pleasure for me to learn this much about various industries in this visit.
The selection of water origin
The standard of water quality is not that high for common adult fish farming farms—the water source is mainly derived from the underground water mixing with seawater to a proper salinity. It controls the oxygen content through the cultivation of red and green algae, with a rare requirement of filtration.
The control of water quality
Generally speaking, the control of water quality is mainly the observation about the quantity of alga to judge the oxygen content; the green alga in water is excessive, which means the oxygen content is too high, while the red alga is too much, which indicates the oxygen is too low. When it rains, the rain would bring the air pollution or the frontal would take the germs from another area to the water, resulting in water contamination, requiring the pharmacy to cleanse the quality and sun-dried of the pond for sterilization.
The newest methods of water condition maintenance is to exchange the pond waters to make both automatic depuration with a method of biological capture; for instance, the water for mullet farming swaps with the one for conch cultivation, using the conch to clean the excreta or food residue and then drain to the gutters so that the water would not cause eutrophication.
The customer of fish farm
The main customer group depends on the types of the fish variety. For the ordinary fish variety, it will be sold directly to market or market makers, but for the rare type, like eels, it will mostly send to market makers. For more special type—indoor fish farming, it’s mainly for the fish with supper commercial value, especially for fry, such as eel larvae. This fish variety requires higher technique and expenditure; the relatively larger-scale farmers would own the pond and there are specific sale accesses.
(1) Co-organized Taiwan iGEM Conference
During the Taiwan iGEM Conference that we co-organized with Chang Gung iGEM team, we are in charge of the creativity and brainstorming activity in order to let all participants get to know each project well. This activity we designed can be split into two parts: First, the “teamwork section”. Each team should introduce their own project and let other teams’ members think of other possibilities or better solving methods to tackle the problem. At the end of this section, each team will collect the feedbacks and give a quick presentation. This activity is really successful since each team did get a lot of inspirations and find out some blind spots from other iGEM teams. For example, NCTU Formosa has a problem of controlling the drug-resistant presented in organisms, which is still a huge environmental issue nowadays.
As for the second section, in order to consistent with our own project, we've designed a forum about the environment: Life X Technology X Environment. We’ve designed three problems for each group to solve. First, give a solution that combines with microorganism and daily products to tackle with air pollutant. Second, come up with the idea to integrate both microorganism and buildings to generate power or reduce the wasted heat. Third, design a bio-system that can be embedded into the asphalt road to deal with the car exhaust emissions or the urban heat island effect (UHI). This section was highly praised because each team came up with numerous interesting ideas after intensive discussion and we all found it meaningful for the training itself! In conclusion, our designed warm-up activities have shown the four core values of iGEM: teamwork, think out of the box, crossover integration and deal with the real issue around the world. All the thoughts came out from that day may one day be a project or something we are eager to fulfill. We believe deeply that these difficulties truly exist and are waiting for us to dedicate ourselves in!
(2) 2017 5th Asia Pacific Conference
In this summer, we attended 5th Asia Pacific Conference held by NCTU. During the conference, we acquainted lots of other iGEMers, building up the several bridges of our following collaboration chances. Also in this conference, we practiced our presentation and conveyed our project idea to others, which is quite useful for us to review our current work in a more objective way. On the other hand, besides reviewing ourselves, to realize other team’s work is quite important as well. At this point, we did find some excellent work and be inspired. We can see how others think and how they practice so that we can also add it to our idea or improve some drawbacks. Here we conclude something that influenced our job :
1. A more concise presentation should be considered. This is our first presentation after our whole frame was formed but we spend too much time trying to give every detail so that we speak too fast and too toneless. After the presentation, most people didn’t get the basic concept and function of our work judging from their question. We then modified the whole slides into a more concise and more comprehensible version which do helps more audiences to get into it.
2. According to iGEM NCTU’s project, they continued their former work in last year, trying to extend an extra function, aiming at a different target. In our case, this plan is something that we could try out because our we have a similar condition! Our devices have been completed around 70% though we only have one featured probe, EDCs probe. There is a high potential to develop some other featured probes or to integrate other iGEM team’s detectors like what we are doing now with iGEM WLC.
(1) GF Competition and Workshop of Ministry of Economic Affairs
．Collaborate unit :
Science and Technology Advisors Office of the Ministry of Economy Affairs (MOEA)
．Collaborate Division :
1. Wet Lab
2. Dry lab
3. Human Practice
．Collaborate item :
1. IoT system build-up
2. Demonstration board system integration
3. APP development
4. Sensors integration
．Collaborate content :
To gain or learn some improved techniques from another unit, GF Competition provided us an extraordinary chance to practice it. This competition is hosted by the Ministry of Economic Affairs every year, whose purpose is to offer a platform for any research groups to integrate their latest technology or methods with government developed technique. This is one of the famous competitions among technical universities in Taiwan, which attracted more than a hundred team to attend. This time, we integrated our EDCs detector and thin-film enzyme reactive filter with MediaTek LinkIt ONE demo-board, MediaTek Cloud Sandbox and Node-RED provided by the government. The government arranged three experts with corresponding professions to help our integration plan and this whole session has lasted for four months. In the end, we won the excellent work prize and Bronze Medal, which indirectly supported our project achievement.
The whole system is set on three levels. First is the processor; second is the IoT and third are demonstrators. In the first level, we connected the demo-board to temperature meter, PH meter and our EDCs detector, which collect data and undergo a two-way analysis of variance (ANOVA) and then the proofread results will be transferred to IoT network. The data can be sent to a various receptor or memory like automatic control system, Node-RED, and MediaTek Cloud Sandbox. Take automatic control system for example, when the water quantity increases too fast, the controller will receive real-time data and changes its position to reduce the feed water so that the following reaction section could have sufficient time to react. As for the Node-RED system, after receiving data from demo-board, it will decide where they should go. The destinies could be a newsletter, FB Messenger, Email, Twitter or alert and Node-RED will also categorize who is authorized to receive based on the water condition. Finally, the data grabbed by cloud will be sent to our smartphone APP so that the users could supervise the real-time water quality.
So far, we have built up the whole framework of the system but there are still some functions that haven’t been completed including Two-way ANOVA, connection with an automatic control system and integration of our EDCs detector. Two-way ANOVA is one of the crucial parts which needs a huge database to eliminate every effect from all the other variations. However, we cannot catch up to the deadline this year but we will build up this database in the future. Besides, since we need more data and experience to integrate EDCs probes and automatic control system, this part of work has not been executed. Nonetheless, this arduous work will be done in the near future as well.
In the future, we will collaborate with other iGEM teams to increase the diversity of our detecting device. For example, we will integrate other types of detectors like what we are doing now with iGEM WLC’s E. coli detector and iGEM NCKU’s nitrate detector. These tasks would not be too easy but that is what we have to do.
(1) 3D Model and simulation corporation
Shih Chien University ( Taiwan )
．Collaborate Division :
1. Landscape build-up
2. Valve control system integration
3. Filter integration
．Collaborate content :
After our project framework having been set in June, we connect with students working in a department of industrial design of SHU immediately. SHU is famous for their design capability, which was ranked as top 30 industrial colleges from “Ranker” 2016, and they become our first choice to cooperate with undoubtedly.
Our main job is to build up a 3D model for a better following test for our EDCs detector and enzyme filter. This part is pretty vital since our enzyme filter is only capable for a small stream in, that is, we didn’t make a 1: 1 model owing to the concern of cost and result uncertainty. However, we designed the model based on flow dynamics and the data collected from field investigation. We are pretty sure that this model could demonstrate the real condition and is ready for any series of tests. The purpose to build up 3D model is not only to bring imagination into the living but also to serve as a pilot application. We are going to find out the potential problem that might happen after we put it into a real application so that we can fix it or improve it.
The whole cooperate session lasted for two months. Back and forth, we continuously optimized the model and learned from each other. Finally, we successfully integrated our valve control system and filter prototype into the 3D model.
(2) Experiments support
．Collaborate unit :
iGEM National Yang Ming University ( Taiwan )
．Collaborate Division :
．Collaborate item :
1. Photobioreactor support
2. Experiments data share
．Collaborate content :
This year, iGEM NYMU focused on energy transformation. In order to measure which pigment may make microalgae gain a higher oil production efficiency and make soil energy more useful, they transferred genes of different pigments into microalgae and compared solar transformation efficiency in different pigments. Our Instructor provided a self-designed photobioreactor and updated its technical skill, offering a chance to have a deeper look in our project and experiment design.
．Collaborate Memo :
After the 5th Asia-Pacific iGEM Conference, NYMU team had a chance to contact the primary instructor of NTHU team, Dr. Ya-Tang Yang, and his laboratory students. Dr. Yang is the associate professor of Institute of Electronics Engineering, National Tsing Hua University. They provided us with a set of Photo-Bioreactor made by themselves and taught us how to use the Photo-Bioreactor. During August to September, we discussed with Dr.Yang and his lab students, trying to fix some difficulties we encountered.
After the Photo-Bioreactor finally worked smoothly, we started to measure the OD value of microalgae we cultivated, collected huge amounts of data, and drew growth curves for our projects. Meanwhile, we shared collated data to Dr. Yang’s lab for research use. We believe this collaboration would be a great academic exchange and produce some interesting results. The pictures below show Dr. Ya-Tang Yang, NYMU team member with Dr. Yang’s lab, and the growth curve of Chlorella vulgaris as well as Synechococcus elongatus PCC 7942.