The Communications/Education Team for a project designing a saliva stress test and marketing it plays a crucial role in ensuring that the product is not only developed successfully but also reaches its target audience effectively. This team is responsible for crafting a comprehensive strategy to communicate the value and benefits of the saliva stress test to the public and healthcare professionals while providing educational resources to support its adoption.Our approach encompassed a range of initiatives, including informative presentations at local high schools and churches to connect with the community. We utilized google forms for data collection and feedback, as well as videographed street interviews within NYC hotbeds served to boost awareness of our product. Our team has also been crafting an educational book that we distributed as free digital copies to elementary afterschool programs. Digital outreach through Instagram and targeted international outreach in Puerto Rico further expanded our reach in boosting the education of our product.


An aware community is key to health, especially mental well-being. Stress is an impactful challenge that humans face today, and to eliminate risks, it is important to encourage knowledgeability of it. To spread information about the affordable stress test that we manufactured, EmpireSpit has updated the public with an online blog. The EmpireSpit blog has disseminated information about stress, its leading causes and effects, and how our project can help solve this global issue.

Over the past 5 months, the blog has grown in activity, educating viewers through latest news on stress, and more. The news pieces involved specific details and statistics ranging from the various diseases, such as IBD, that result from stress, to how many Americans are affected by this hormone imbalance. In order to engage audiences and encourage younger generations to also be interested in our blog, a number of the posts were written from a creative, simplified perspective. One of the highlight publications is the “Hello! I’m Alpha Amylase” story, which takes the reader on the journey of Alpha Amylase (AA), an enzyme that is deeply involved in our project. Such posts have been efficient to our project because it is important to engage as many demographics as we can, given that stress holds a wide impact on all.

The blog for the EmpireSpit project has been instrumental to not only marketing our product, but educating others on why projects like ours are significant. Through blog posts, we have been able to expand our reach and teach more people about stress

Figure 1: Screenshot of our BlogSpot

Puerto Rico


As a part of our initiative to spread awareness regarding both the importance of science and research, our team hosted three workshops through our collaboration with K-12 schools in Puerto Rico. In our workshops, we surveyed the impact of stress in our audience. Many of the kids talk about their own life stressors whether that be stress caused from school or real life stressors such as money and food. As a reminder, these are teenagers and some were elementary schoolers. To learn about their stories was very eye-opening for our team.

In our workshops, we demonstrated our project of using spit as a biomarker. We wanted to emphasize the mental health impacts of stress as well as the importance of identifying it early on as to avoid more serious effects in the future. Although we understand that stress is unavoidable for most people, we did share some commonly practiced stress-relievers such as breathing exercises and stretches. Our team talked about some personal techniques that we use to mitigate stress, some of us taking walks and others mentioning that listening to music helps as well.

Most importantly, we recognize that the students in Puerto Rico have a lot of potential. Many of them are aspiring doctors and biologists. Many students also have not had the opportunity to be exposed to science and technology within their communities because of a lack of resources. As such, it was very important for us to continue our partnership with the students.

The students who have demonstrated interest in collaborating with our team are now doing their own scientific workshops within their communities. Our team has fundraised money to donate ipads and different computer-science learning kits in order to support their learning within their communities.

Figure 2: Our lectures about our iGEM project in Puerto Rico!


After leaving Puerto Rico, EmpireSpit maintained our partnership with many of the Puerto Rican students. Some of our computational subteam was able to create a coding club, guiding interested students through the process of creating programs and website design, while members of our biology subteam were able to create a mini-biology course, teaching kids about basic molecular structures, proteins, and aptamers.

Figure 3: Zoom session with Puerto Rican kids on coding and biology


New York High Schools

To guide our peers on their own stress levels, and our project, a number of our teammates hosted lectures at their schools. We shared our website with them, giving them a brief overview of our project, outreach, wet-lab work, and engineering. At multiple specialized New York high schools, EmpireSpit members discussed the aspiration and motives behind the saliva test product, and why these changes are necessary. The students who attended the presentations were within our own age groups, who experience the same environmental stressors as we do. This was a significant outlet for our research because students make up a large portion of the population that experiences stress on a daily basis.

During each presentation, members of the audience were asked about their own levels of stress to contribute to our ongoing investigation. The overall answers concluded that stress was a regular occurrence day to day for the students. The presentations also focused on the intent of our project: finding an efficient and affordable mechanism to detect acute stress. The focus on acute stress stems from the belief that there exists a causative relation between acute stress and chronic stress and its potential effects on extreme mental health disorders.

Figure 4: Lectures in Brooklyn Tech, Staten Island Tech, Stuyvesant, and Columbia Prep.

Shin Kwang Church

EmpireSpit biology captain Heewon Choi had the opportunity to share our project with Shin Kwang Church, one of the biggest Korean churches in New York City. Shin Kwang is a reformist church that serves around 8,000 attendees every Sunday, and hosts Friday worship nights for the youth group ministry. Heewon went to Shin Kwang Church to present our project to the church’s youth group ministry after Sunday service ended. Many of the students were either in junior high school or high school, and a majority of them were students attending rigorous, high-stress high schools such as Stuyvesant and Townshend Harris. Prior to the presentation, Heewon asked the students if they had any knowledge on salivary biomarkers and their relationship to stress. All of them confirmed that they did not have any previous knowledge on our topic of study.

During his presentation, Heewon asked the students at service how often they were stressed, and the majority indicated that stress was just a normal part of their lives. After inquiring about the students’ personal experiences, he rerouted discussion to the focus of our research project: finding a fast and cost-effective way to detect acute stress. Heewon then discussed why exactly EmpireSpit chose to focus on acute stress identification by explaining the causative relation between acute stress and chronic stress and their potential manifestations as more extreme mental health disorders. Heewon concluded the presentation by asking how likely the students would buy the AptaStress test kids that EmpireSpit proposed, and most of the audience responded with either “likely” or “very likely”, indicating the relevance of AptaStress in improving youth mental health.

Figure 5: Our student leader Heewon Choi presenting our idea in Shin Kwang Church


EmpireSpit created a YouTube education channel with the aim of sharing our successful synthetic biology methods and laboratory experiences to a broader audience. We published videos explaining procedures commonly used in the lab, such as restriction enzyme digest, gel electrophoresis, and sequencing. Additionally, we hoped to expand knowledge of the synthetic biology field, going as far as to collaborate with underprivileged schools in Puerto Rico, where we presented our project to over 400 overall students. Our team exchanged contact information with many of the students and continued to educate and collaborate over the course of our project. We hope that the extent of these videos will help to inspire other teams and students around the world

Figure 6: Check out our YouTube Channel!


We utilized Instagram as our main social media platform for spreading awareness about AptaStress and documenting our iGEM journey. We posted videos and pictures of our educational efforts, such as our outreach trip to Puerto Rico to educate local students about our project, and our in-class education where our team members presented our project idea and goals in NY high schools. Furthermore, we aimed to use our Instagram as an education tool, like with our stress facts series: sharing 10 little-known facts about stress. We also published photos from our outreach meetings with experts to document our progress on developing our final project, AptaStress.

Another primary goal of our Instagram was to create a community. Our Instagram leaders posted a lot of fun bonus content like the “behind the scenes” of the promo video, photos of us working, and some iGEM-related funny memes. These posts are also integral to our educational outreach because they draw viewers to our account, increasing our digital impact and allowing us to connect with people from different places. It was especially beneficial to be in contact with other iGEM teams from all around the world, because we got to see what types of projects were important to people in different places. Overall, our Instagram is a great educational tool and resource for our team.

We also used our Instagram account to share information about our hardware design: the low-cost PCR machine. Considering that many other iGEM teams follow our Instagram account, we hope that this device can serve as an inspirational resource for future teams. Outside of Instagram, we also tried posting on other social media platforms like Reddit

Figure 7: Our Instagram Page


Washington Square Park

Hwarin, Christina, and Damini facilitated in-person surveys on stress levels and awareness of stress detection methods in a diverse setting like Washington Square Park in New York can yield valuable insights into the mental well-being of individuals across different age groups and genders. The first two questions regarding the frequency of experiencing stress within one week provide a snapshot of the stress landscape in this urban environment. This information can help identify if certain demographics or age groups are more susceptible to high stress levels, aiding in the development of targeted stress management programs or interventions.

Inquiring about respondents' familiarity with over-the-counter PCR kits, like COVID-19 test kits, is particularly relevant given the recent pandemic. Understanding the public's awareness and usage of such kits can provide our team with data on health-related behaviors and preparedness for health crises.

Similarly, gauging familiarity with stress detection methods like blood draws or ELISA tests for cortisol allows researchers to assess the level of knowledge surrounding advanced stress monitoring techniques. This data can help identify opportunities for education and also raise awareness about the potential benefits of such tools.

The final question inquiring about the potential benefits of using a stress detector kit encourages respondents to reflect on the advantages of monitoring stress hormones. In a place as diverse as Washington Square Park, the benefits may vary widely, from improved mental health awareness and stress management to potentially preventing or addressing stress-related health issues. Collecting this information in a public space like the park ensures a broad and inclusive representation of the community's perspectives, contributing to a more comprehensive understanding of stress and its management in the population.

Figure 8: Hwarin, Christina, and Damini in Washington Square Park

Google Form

Our Google Form stress questionnaire served as a valuable tool for individuals to gain insights into their stress levels and understand the potential sources of stress in their lives. The first question, "How often do you experience stress in a typical week?" provides respondents with an opportunity to reflect on the frequency of stressors they encounter. This information can help individuals recognize patterns and make informed decisions about managing stress. By using a scale from 1 to 10 to rate their overall stress level, respondents can pinpoint the intensity of their stress, allowing for a more nuanced assessment of their mental well-being.

65% of the survey takers were of ages 16-18 at the time of filling out the questions, and 28.1% were of ages 14-16. Teenagers are highly susceptible to stress. 86.9% of the survey takers disclosed that their current occupation is high school student. This ended up being our predominant sample, due to opportunity-based sampling, given that we had more access to encouraging these demographics to take the survey.

The results of the survey strongly supported the hypothesis that the majority of the population experiences stress on a frequent basis. 47.5% of the respondents specified that they undergo symptoms of stress daily, meanwhile an additional 40% shared that they experience stress several times a week. These overwhelming statistics are coupled with the survey portion asking participants to rank their stress from 1 being “not stressed at all” and 10 being “extremely stressed”. The majority of respondents selected rankings 7 and 8, at 19.4% and 19.4% of the respondents for both rankings. Overall, approximately 75% of respondents selected rankings of 6 and higher. This supports the clear demand for our product, and proves that society, particularly high school students can greatly benefit from a product detecting their stress levels.

Additionally, the questionnaire delves into respondents' familiarity with over-the-counter PCR kits and stress detection methods such as blood draws or ELISA tests for cortisol. This information can be crucial for healthcare professionals and researchers looking to understand the relationship between stress and physical health. By collecting data on the use of stress detection tools, it becomes possible to explore the effectiveness of such methods in helping individuals monitor and manage their stress levels.

The questionnaire prompts respondents to consider the potential benefits of using a stress detector kit. This encourages individuals to think about how gaining insights into their stress hormone levels could improve their overall well-being. Approximately 53% of the respondents shared that they would be likely to purchase a saliva stress detector kit, given that the product is effective. Only Stress detector kits can empower individuals to take proactive steps towards stress management and may even lead to early intervention for stress-related health issues, ultimately promoting better mental and physical health outcomes. The Google Form stress questionnaire can contribute to a greater understanding of stress in individuals' lives and the potential benefits of stress detection methods.

Figure 9: Pie Charts of the Google Form

Spotify Podcast

EmpireSpit is ecstatic to share our podcast. In this podcast series, we delved deep into the fascinating world of synthetic biology and explored the groundbreaking project and innovations that our iGEM team, EmpireSpit, has been working on. To combat all the stress and mental health issues that frequently go unnoticed, the saliva kit that our team is producing to detect stress levels is critical to making a right step in the mental health industry. Stress is caused by multiple issues; whether it is because of homework, taxes, family, or an exam, it is important to identify the stress we go through to make an impactful change.

Throughout the podcast series, EmpireSpit had the privilege of interviewing iGEM participants, mentors, teachers and experts in the field to learn from diverse perspectives and incorporate them into our final project. We discussed a wide range of topics, from the process of how our team was divided up to complete each section of the project to tips and experiences in the laboratory. Our podcast mostly hinges on the topic of our project: detecting stress levels through cortisol and alpha amylase quantities. Every episode showcases the dedication, creativity, and innovative thinking of our team, highlighting contributions to improving the well being of societal mental health. Our team has come far since our idea’s initial conception.

EmpireSpit’s podcast not only serves as a platform to underscore the achievements of our team but also aims to inspire the next generation of scientists and bioengineers to explore the limitless possibilities of synthetic biology, whether or not they are participating in iGEM. By discussing the setbacks we experienced in our project, it highlights the dedication and effort that we went through to develop our final project. Our use of Synthetic biology doesn’t only aim to resolve mental health challenges, but also affect agriculture, vaccines and other societal issues as well. EmpireSpit hopes that listeners find this podcast informative, engaging, and thought-provoking, as we venture into the world of synthetic biology and discuss the impact that our team is making on our world. Join Grace, Christina, Charlotte and Heewon in this exciting journey of discovery and innovation by taking a listen!

Figure 10: Our Spotify Podcast


Our team, EmpireSpit, raised awareness of AptaStress by taking a proactive approach in nearby NYC neighborhoods, including Koreatown. Several of our Education subteam members (Hwarin, Benjamin, and Damini) took the initiative in spreading awareness of our project by distributing informative flyers with QR codes directing individuals to a thorough description of our project. Simultaneously, other EmpireSpit members organized live interviews with random Koreatown passersby to engage the community, share our team’s progress, and ascertain public opinion on the utilities of our project. We held “street interviews” by asking random members of the community stress-related questions, like how frequently they thought they experience excessive stress, whether they've previously used a COVID test, their personal opinions on the marginal benefits of using COVID tests versus visiting a doctor for suspected COVID-19, and their comfort level with saliva tests compared to more invasive alternatives like blood samples or nasal swabs. During these conversations, we provided information about our project and educated people on the advantages of AptaStress all while maintaining a conversational exchange to gauge general interest in such a product. This on-the-ground effort not only enriched our understanding of public perceptions but also expanded our outreach efforts, ensuring that our message reached a diverse and broader audience within the heart of New York City.

Figure 11: Benjamin, Heewon, and Hwarin interviewing in Herald Sqare and KoreaTown

Our Children's Book

In the making of, “Yam the Lamb”, – a children’s book aimed at conveying our project in terms that young minds can grasp – we engaged on a creative journey that merged frisky simplicity with innovation. We recognized the importance of simplifying the broad concept of stress; for example, when the wise owl wanted to measure the levels of stress in Yam the Lamb, he took out the “Worry-O-Meter” in the book which served as a whimsical caricature of our team’s test kit, Apta-Stress. Throughout the book, we combined colorful illustrations and playful rhymes to introduce the idea of stress and our team’s effective results in measuring stress levels. In our fantastical and euphoric town, our beloved protagonist, Yam, exhibited fears and worries when making friends; later on, the owl introduced what stress was and the Worry-O-Meter demonstrated that as the colors on the device changed, Yam’s stress levels were also fluctuating. By using relatable characters like Yam, simple language, and playful illustrations, we aimed to teach children the importance of our team’s project and how they can manage their stress.

Taking our project to the next level, our dedicated team had the privilege of sharing our book with children at a nonprofit organization in downtown New York. This experience brought light to the importance and power of our project. What was compelling was that the young listeners engaged and resonated with Yam the Lamb and her story. Through our storytelling, we not only simplified the complicated science behind our project, but also encouraged children to embrace stress management in an accessible and fun way. Overall, this experience reinforced our belief in the capacity of storytelling to inspire and educate – even the youngest minds – and ultimately set the stage for a future generation equipped with knowledge and tools to manage their well-being.