Before the project was launched, SMS surveyed to determine how many people were aware of gum pollution in the city. The survey results showed that while gum contamination is widespread, most people ignore this common contamination. SMS, therefore, wanted to develop a technique for rapidly degrading gum using synthetic biology and consulted experts to optimize the experimental method. In addition, SMS also conducted interviews with stakeholders in the gum issue. Based on interviews and mutual feedback with stakeholders, we summarized their fundamental needs, and combined with our project; we developed the hardware of the project -- gum cleaner. In the meantime, SMS hopes to raise public awareness of the gum issue and has organized an online and offline art exhibition to arouse general thinking about the subject.
Figure 1 | Mindmap of iHP in SMS_Shenzhen 2021
Defining the Problem
The Field Tests
During the brainstorming process, we came up with the idea of cleaning chewing gum by ourselves using the highest-ranking gum disposal methods. We attempted different methods, including using (a) acetic acid, (b) water, (c) shove and egg white, and (d) acetic acid and egg white.These methods are all the most popular and claimed to be effective ones on the internet.
Our fieldwork discovered that although the methods did work to a certain degree, some gum, especially the part sticking on the ground, was always left uncleaned. And, most importantly, all these methods require a lot of time and physical work. Therefore, a new approach with efficiency, effectiveness and does not require further work is needed.
Before everything started, we wanted to figure out whether there was a need for our project during the brainstorming process. We distributed online questionnaires to explore the public's views on chewing gum pollution and their expectations of our product. We published them on multiple public forums and social media sites. To ensure the authenticity and validity of the questionnaires, we set up a question to check whether the answer is valid and protect it by protecting the participant's privacy.
Survey result -- Places and Frequency of Discovering Chewing Gums
"Where do you think chewing gum is usually found?" Only 11.6 percent thought the gum around them was properly disposed of, while more than 87 percent found gum in public that was not properly disposed of. This shows that chewing gum is an issue that has been noticed by the public and our project is needed by society. Fifty-seven percent said they noticed gum contamination only occasionally, while only 8.5 percent said they noticed it regularly in their lives. This result is actually different from Question 3. There is a good explanation for the difference. It's much easier to notice gum being thrown around now, so when we ask about gum contamination, people react differently than when they answer directly about gums being thrown around. Basically, people don't realize the seriousness of environmental pollution caused by gum throwing. So there's a need for a lot of publicity about the environmental risks of chewing gum.
Designing our Solution
Interviews with Experts
After we determined our project and our experiment's main technology roadmap, we've decided to interview several experts in the field of modeling and directed evolution to help make greater progress for our project.
In the early days of modelling, we came up with several ideas about possible models that can help improve our project: the pathogen propagation model that illustrates the harm of residual gums, the degradation model that illustrates the degradation process of our enzymes, the bacterial growth model that illustrates the growth of E. Coli, and the rational design that helps design proper mutants. However, since we weren't confident in our knowledge about the requirements and mathematics in biological modelling, we spoke to two experts in semiconductor simulation and gene circuit designing, who gave us insight into designing and improving our models.
When we were designing the directed evolution experiments, we were confused by numeral plans because none of us had experience in carrying out analogical experiments. To choose a reliable method that can handle the evolution of E.coli expressing Laccase CotA with better enzyme activity, we consulted Shiyuan Li and Ruijuan Xiang about a series of problems. Shiyuan Li used to conduct directed evolution experiments, and he is passionate about educating the public about synthetic biology. Ruijuan Xiang, the PI of an iGEM team in Beijing, is experienced in purifying proteins. With their help, we determined the method of conducting directed evolution experiments and an efficient measure to test the enzyme activity of many protein samples.
We designed our project with the help of those experts . Click to know more about project design.
Improving our Project
The main goal of our human practices is to build mutually beneficial links between the stakeholders and promote the improvement of our project. Considering the purpose of our project and our products, we found it necessary to listen to different opinions from different stakeholders. We identify the following stakeholders who might be helpful in our project：
Chewing gum manufacturer
Chewing gum seller
City Management Department Director
Manager of Public Place
Interviews with Stakeholders
In order to form an intimate relationship with our stakeholders, we conducted a series of investigations with each of them.
Through our discussions with these stakeholders, we finalized their suggestions and needs.
challenge the wrapping paper, the current solution to reduce chewing gum poution.
had a limited awareness of the harm of gum pollution.
pointed out that we should consider environmental factors, like ground temperature and weather.
have no effective tools to clean sticky gum marks.
Having identified the suggestions and needs from stakeholders, our team began brainstorming the hardware for users. We first discussed the form of our product. A modulated toolbox in which the inner parts are replaceable will be ideal for us. Our team also considers different usage scenarios, indoor and outdoor.
To discover more about the hardware, click the button below.
Investigating Ground Temperature
In our interview with the site manager of Wutong Mountain, the person in charge suggested that the amount of residual gum in tourist attractions varies with the seasons. In summer, as the flow of passengers increases, the number of residual gum increases. We can see that summer is the peak time to clean residual gum. Therefore, we made long-term observations of the summer surface temperature and weather conditions in our city——Shenzhen——to determine whether our enzymes' operating conditions fit the surface temperature in Shenzhen. We recorded the surface temperature for ten periods (one period represents ten days). The following chart is the result of our investigation.
Figure | Investigation of the surface temperature and weather in Shenzhen
According to the chart, the average surface temperature in Shenzhen's summer is about 42 Celsius, indicating the possibility of denaturalization for enzymes. Luckily, the denaturalization temperature for laccase CotA is high enough (about 90 Celsius) to keep its activity on the ground. Notably, the difference between forecasted temperatures and actual surface temperature is about 10 Celsius. Therefore, attention should be paid when predicting the surface temperature using the given temperature in the weather forecast. Besides, the average humidity is about 75% in Shenzhen, a coastal city south of the Northern Regression Line. The humidity condition is relatively friendly to the degradation process that occurs in the aqueous environment.
Consequently, through our investigation, the following conclusion is derived:
- The temperature condition on the ground is possible for our laccase cotA to operate normally.
- The humidity condition is favourable for degradation under an aqueous environment.
- When predicting surface temperature, operators should consider the difference between weather forecast temperature and surface temperature.
- This promoted our experiment, modeling and investigation of directed evolution.
Engaging the Public
From the interviews of City Management Department Director and Chewing Gum Seller, we recognized the importance of raising the public's awareness. Thus, we planned to organize an art exhibition, with eye-catching and impressive exhibits, to let the audience understand the severity of chewing gum issues, and therefore reflect on themselves to stop discarding chewing gum helps protect the environment.
Why this exhibition
After the research and interviews in the iHP section, we found that the public's understanding and attention to the harm of gum residues is very lacking. Therefore, we hope to draw people's attention to this issue in a novel and exciting way.
Draw people's awareness and provoke deep thinking in an artistic way.
Our Brainstorm Process
We discussed our ideas with Mr Shen from the Central Academy of Fine Arts. He suggested that we could make an art exhibition about our project. We then brainstormed the design of exhibits and how we would make them.
Now, let us introduce this novel exhibition to you.
The management of abandoned chewing gums in the urban environment is a blind spot. The gums that stick on the ground are called "city freckles" and "city peepers". According to our research, the traditional cleaning methods will consume many unnecessary human and material resources. In this regard, SMS_Shenzhen developed a cleaning liquid that can degrade gum base, hoping to contribute to the world's sustainable development.
However, all science and technology can do is degrade discarded gum. It is humans' awareness that could solve the problem. Therefore, we decided to use the exhibition to draw people's attention to gum problems and provoke deep thinking.
These are sculptures of chewing gums. We preserved the abandoned chewing gums by making moulds and sculptures of the gum collected from the ground. We then glued the sculptures to the background board which looked like the ground. We hope that people will notice and realise that these easily overlooked black pieces are abandoned chewing gums.
Figure | The black pieces on the board were sculptures of gum.
This is a sandglass with chewing gums and our degrading cleaning liquid inside. The degradation of gum using enzymes is a slow and continuous process. We made this exhibit to show the gums gradually being degraded into liquid and reflect the sense of time.
Figure | BioArt---Time.
This is a team photo made from screen printing technology, using gums degraded to liquid form as ink.
Screen printing technology was originated in China more than 2000 years ago, and it is characterized by easy production and unlimited reproduction. Although raw materials have been improving over the past 2,000 years, the nature of this ancient printing process has not changed. We wanted to make people think about how the nearly 200-year-old gum can continue to play its original role, like screen printing, and improve itself, rather than becoming a forgotten voyeur in a fast-paced city.
Figure | BioArt---US.
These are two photos synthesised by photoshop. We took pictures of the gum in the corners of the city and used Photoshop to stitch them together on the gum residue and floor tiles. This kind of presentation brings a strong sense of visual impact and contrast to the viewers and makes the viewers aware of the prevalence of gum residue on the ground.
Figure | BioArt---Microcosm.
Looking into the Future
Gum pollution is still a serious and widespread problem among many different countries. Numerous organizations and companies are dedicating themselves to solving it. Through integrated human practice, our team realized the ponderance of gum pollution all over the globe. Moreover, we figured out that this pollution problem is still not paid enough attention to in the community. It is our duty to make more people realize the seriousness of gum pollution. In the future, we will keep popularizing our attitude towards gum pollution, especially in the young. Increasing publicity will be the main goal of our project in the future.