Quorum Sensing system for Microplastics Detection

Our team tried every effort to bridge the gap between scientific community and the public by effective science communication and outreach. Our goals are to educate the public about how synthetic biology can be the key to address microplastic pollution using an innovative and interactive activities and to raise public awareness about microplastic pollution and maximize their engagement. With a variety of communication methods and tremendous efforts for improvements, we were able to ignite students passion and interest in the environmental issue as shown by the active participation of students and the positive outcomes shown in the event surveys. Besides, the costumes that we designed for the promotion of polluted ocean with plastics was award the “Third Prize”in a Green Fashion Show Competition. The plastics and microplastics shown on the costumes were collected from the beach cleanup activities. Moreover, the design of the prototype of microplastic AI collection car arouses students’ interest in the car and its potential to pick up microplastics in beaches.

Sharing sessions for G7 to G11 students

The aim of the sharing session in July is to educate G7 to G11 school students about microplastic pollution and how our iGEM project use synthetic biology to address the problem.

We introduced our project deeply, including the theory of quorum sensing system, the construct design of the whole-cell biosensor, the facts about microplastics, and the prototype of the AI Car which will be used in beach clean-ups. We also shared the events we joined previously, namely interviews with professors, a beach clean-up, a Green fashion show, and sharing sessions. Moreover, we showed some questions from the survey, which were mostly not answered correctly by the students, such as the size of microplastics and organisms that are able to bring microplastics into the food chain. Then we explained these questions and educated them on the correct answer, hoping to understand what microplastic is and the effect of microplastic. In addition, we adapted Dr. Wright's suggestion, which is to use live polls, games, and others to make the sharing session interactive. We created a word cloud, which allowed us to know about the student’s understanding of microplastics before we began. Later, when we were explaining the part of quorum sensing, we used our props as AHL and acted to be P. aeruginosa in order to make it interesting and easy to understand.

Before the end of our sharing session, we gave them a Kahoot quiz based on our sharing session. The overall correct rate is 30%, because nearly half of the respondents were not fast enough to answer. Facing this situation, we will improve it by lengthening the answering time. From most answered respondents, most questions were answered correctly, the highest correct rate is 50% reflecting that our sharing session does work and, educates them about microplastics successfully.

Green Fashion Show – Our two designed costumes was awarded the“Third Prize”

This year in June, we participated in the Green Fashion Show held by Sing Yin College. The concept was an illusion this year. In order to promote our iGEM project, we designed two costumes in totally different styles, bringing out the theme of our clothes - polluted ocean.

Our theme revolves around the changes of the times and environmental pollution. So we first introduce the skirt.

This shirt imitates the style of retro clothing, and we wanted to use a retro outfit to show the changes in the ocean in the past. The ocean had been very blue and clear as there was no pollution. The highlight and the shadow of wrinkled paper at the skirt are like the waves and foam of the ocean, mixed with some shells collected on the beach to give it a natural feel. We also made some plastic flowers from some clear plastic that was collected during the beach cleaning activity. We wish to show that the pollution problem in the past was not serious and the ocean still maintained its clear beauty.

On the other hand, using laundry nets as fishing nets could symbolize that humans are gradually attacking the marine ecology and environment, and gradually destroying nature. Although there does not seem to be any large waste decorations on the surface, we would like to show that human waste was actually silently destroying the marine ecology. While the environment is gradually being polluted, we wish to raise people's awareness on this issue through our costumes

For the cloat design, after the ancient oceans were destroyed by humans, they were filled with oil stains and garbage, polluting the seawater and harming marine life. Moreover, slowly paving the natural blue of the past with the dirty black of the future. In order to symbolize the water was polluted by oil leaked from fishing boats and to visualize this idea, our shirt was designed to be all black. Different plastic pieces on the cloat distributed throughout the model's body, showing the impact of marine debris on marine life and humans. Furthermore, the garbage bags and film shawls which appeared on the blanket represent the oil and plastic floating on the sea.

As our project focuses on plastic waste, microplastics and plastic garbage collected from beach cleanup were reused on this cloth. Though the two clothes look fancy, however, when you have a closer look at them, they are actually an illusion. Plastic pollution in the ocean is actually a very serious and influential problem. We sincerely hope that everyone can pay more attention to the issue of microplastic pollution through participating in the Green Fashion Show. In addition, we have also utilized the designed clothes, displaying them on the exhibition, hoping to raise various students' awareness on the serious plastic pollution and their effect on the ocean through visualizing these ideas.

Project exhibitions

From our survey results and past interviews, our team noticed that secondary school students may lack awareness of microplastic pollution and knowledge about synthetic biology. Therefore, we decided to organize a 3 day exhibition, design boards and booths for students to learn more about our project QSMiD and microplastic pollution. To make students learn in a fun way, we took the suggestions from Dr Wright and designed different minigames for each team to further consolidate their understanding. Furthermore, in order to collect students feedbacks regarding to our exhibition, we have designed a survey, asking their understanding on the content we mentioned in the posters, their agreement on whether our exhibition can provide a platform for them to learn more about plastic pollution, synthetic biology and rank on our project's contribution to the community.

We detaily introduced what all 3 teams: Research Team, Human Practice Team and Technology Team are working on. We talked about our project QSMiD and clear their misconceptions on microplastic.

For the Research Team, we set a booth, showing laboratory apparatus, such as test tubes and some bacteria culture, to let students learn how to use the pipette. The participants enjoy using new equipment which they have never seen to carry out laboratory work. Also, we have introduced how our biosensor works. We have posted some data and photos and let students learn more about quorum sensing and EGFP signals. Furthermore, in order to let them have a deeper understanding of our construct, we prepared a puzzle. By reassembling the puzzle in correct order, participants are able to learn the process of how our biosensor works.

For the Human Practice Team, we talked about the misconceptions found in the survey results. Many respondents showed a lack of knowledge on microplastics, thus, we have focused on clearing those misunderstandings and providing the correct information as education. We have also mentioned what activities we have done so far, such as beach cleanup activity and Fashion show, showing our educational work. We have displayed related costumes for students to further raise their attention. Hopefully, we can encourage students to participate in more public environmental protection activities. In order to further introduce beach cleanup activities, we have prepared a booth to let students learn how to record the data down. We designed a few data files and a table, which contained 3 types of microplastic with different colors. Students can experience how to count the microplastic and classify them according to their colour and size.

Lastly, for the Technology Team, we have detaily introduced the microplastic collecting car grand design,wiki coding and Hill function. Hopefully, students who have a huge interest in mechanical engineering can explore more on this aspect. We have also displayed our microplastic collecting car and let students try how to use the car with a simulation condition

Throughout the exhibition, we have collected more than 100 students' response on their knowledge and comments. We have asked about the size of microplastics. In the survey we issued before, only 46% of respondents got the correct answer. After our exhibition, around 50% of people can choose the correct answer. After the exhibition, 50% of respondents are able to point out the colour of the released fluorescence signal in our is green. Furthermore, we truly find that minigames are crucial for students to understand. For the question asking about the procedures of microplastics collecting car, 53.1% can correctly arrange all procedures. As mentioned, in the game, we will let students try to collect microplastic with the car. We believe that through the games, we can further consolidate their understanding and knowledge. Moreover, when asking about the concept behind our fashion show costume, 51.9% got the correct answer. We can see that, by showing the props we used, it can truly raise their interest to learn more.

Despite the factual formation, we have also asked about their comment on our exhibition. 79% of students strongly agreed and agreed that our exhibition allowed them to learn more about synthetic biology. Moreover, 77.5% of them agree that we clear their misconceptions on microplastic, for example, their shape, size and where they come from. Not only that, 80.7% of students think that we raise their awareness on microplastic pollution. Furthermore, we asked respondents to rank our level of contribution, 83.2% of them think we have a high level of contribution to the community. This result truly gives us lots of support and motivation. Lastly, 86.9% of students enjoy our exhibition a lot. We believe that through interactive exhibition, students are able to learn more about our project, synthetic biology and microplastic pollution problem.

AI-enabled robotic car for microplastic collection

After the beach cleanup activates, we found that picking up microplastics by hand is ineffective and tedious, therefore we thought of an idea to carry out the procedures with a robotic car. We aim to develop a prototype of an automated microplastic collecting car which collects sand, and filters out the microplastics all by its own for microplastics collection and educational purposes. Details can be found in Technology page.


We use every effort to host as many activities as possible in order to maximize the number of audience and the effect of education. We understand that not all audiences are familiar with synthetic biology and microplastic, thus we try to simplify the hard to digest knowledge to understandable to most audiences. With the aid of interesting mini games and presentation skills, we hope that we could provide a great opportunity for attracting more audiences and let them understand our project and synthetic biology.

To collect suggestion and opinion from the audience for improvement, we always set post surveys and quizzes after each activity for two-way dialogue. From the post surveys, we will be able to know the opinions and thoughts from students and improve our further activities to make it more interesting and attract more audiences to attend our activities. From the quizzes, we can find out how much our audiences understand and which parts of our project need more education and emphasis, this helps us to improve our further activities in order to maximize the education effect on more audiences. Different from the traditional education, what we are doing is designed based on the aspect of young audiences. We have tried our best to ensure the knowledge part is easy to digest and keep the activity interesting and attractive, which was suggested by Dr Wright. We used the word cloud, physical demonstration of quorum sensing, showing clothes in fashion show in sharing sessions, beach clean up activities to let audiences realize the problem of microplastics, mini games, and kahoot quiz, AI car prototype in exhibition etc. Our designed actvities makes education attractive, interesting and easy to digest, in this way, we can achieve our goal, which is letting more audience to understand our project and synthetic biology and increase their engagement to protect the environment.