Every year, university teams from across the world working at the intersection of biology and design compete in the Biodesign Challenge. The University of Sydney’s team was chosen as a representative to compete alongside 44 student finalist teams from across 12 countries.
Our students, Bridget Scott, Amalie Judd, Madison Nguyen, Savvana Christoforou, Andrew Xing, Mehak Dhiman, Kaitlyn Briden, Chi Chi Pau and Isaiah Balot, propose that bacteria can be used to help nurses prevent pressure injuries. Pressure injuries are a serious Hospital Acquired Condition, which costs a lot of money to the health system and patients who have injuries spend a significantly longer amount of time in hospital.
You may have heard of this bioluminescence in the ocean, such as with the Hawaiian Bobtail Squid, but the students are proposing that the same mechanism can be used to help identify patients at risk of developing pressure injuries. The project, named ‘Illuminate Pressure’, would use luminescent bacteria to indicate whether a patient has been in the same position for too long. "It works using a mechanism seen in nature that allows bacteria to work together, called quorum sensing. In Illuminate Presure (and the Bobtail Squid) the bacteria respond by glowing. In nature this gives an animal a competitive advantage, but in a hospital, this could be used help a nurse identify when a patient needs to be moved, reducing the chance of pressure sores," " Dr Gough said.
Students can contribute their own domain expertise to a project – whether they are from science or design – but still be challenged to think differently about how science can be turned into new technology that helps people.
Learning about biodesign is a great opportunity for students to work in an interdisciplinary team. "Science students learn about designing user-centred, interactive systems, and design students learn about biological processes that can work a lot like digital systems. The great part is that all of the students can contribute their own domain expertise to a project – whether they are from science or design – but still be challenged to think differently about how science can be turned into new technology that helps people," said Dr Gough.
Our team presented their project at a virtual event on June 15 to an audience of curators, artists, designers and scientists, where they were successfully shortlisted in the top 6 to take the grand prize.
Projects are judged according to four sets of criteria: concept, presentation, reflection and context. They were successfully shortlisted in the top 6 to take the grand prize. The Overall Winner of the Biodesign Challenge will take home the Glass Microbe, which is passed to each year’s winners. Created by artist Luke Jerram, the Glass Microbe is a unique artwork and symbol of the intersection of art, design, and biology.