University of Aachen
We worked with the University of Aachen, Germany on a collaboration that was focused mainly on human practices. Their project, similar to ours, centers around the depleting access of clean drinking water to people around the world. Unlike our project, which focused on lead contamination, Team Aachen focused on salt contamination in drinking water. Our collaboration was sparked due to mutual interest in how our project inspirations affected other countries around the world. In our collaboration, Team WPI researched salt contamination in the United States. We explored where and why salt contamination was a problem along with how it impacts citizens of the United States. In exchange, Team Aachen researched and translated information on lead contamination in Germany. From this information, we learned about the political policies that have lead to the country's overall lack of lead contamination in their drinking water. This information further helped us develop the Human Practices component of our project by giving us a global picture and broader understanding of what causes lead contamination in water as well as a system to look toward when developing a set of policies to lessen contamination.
Boston University: Hardware
We worked with Boston University Hardware to begin developing a microfluidic chip that could be used to increase the accuracy and efficiency of our gold-nanoparticle lead detection assay. Boston University’s project is focused on improving the ease and ability of developing and building microfluidic chips without the need of a middle man. Our project’s Lead Assay had several components that BU’s Hardware Team was hoping to improve in microfluidic chips. It was an ideal collaboration because making the lead assay automated would improve its accuracy, and it would challenge BU’s team.
Over the course of the collaboration, members of WPI iGEM traveled to BU Hardware iGEM’s lab in order to test the reproducibility of our lead assay with a different set of equipment. This experiment allowed both teams to understand what aspects of the assay are susceptible to change and should therefore be optimized in the final product. Our team ended up realizing that the assay was not appropriate for our project, but we still worked with BU’s Hardware Team to see if it could be automated.
The BU Team came up with a schematic, and outline as to how the assay would work.
The only part necessary after the assay was scaled down would be a device that could read absorbance of microliters of volumes. A new device could be developed to do this or the assay could be sent into a 384 well plate instead of a 96 well plate to be read on a plate reader with the capacity to read a 384 well plate. For more information about the microfluidics chip please see BU’s Hardware Page.