A music box became the afflatus for a tiny allure set that won $50,000 for a Stanford bioengineer.
When Manu Prakash was adolescent he had a affair about flames. He’s not auspicious all kids to chase his ablaze advance – he did bake one duke appealing abominably – but he thinks kids should analyze added back it comes to acquirements about science. That’s the abstraction abaft his programmable, toy-like accessory that won a antagonism to “reimagine the allure set for the 21st century.”
The Science Comedy and Analysis Kit Antagonism (SPARK) was accordingly sponsored by the Gordon and Betty Moore Foundation and the Society for Science & the Public. Prakash, an abettor assistant of bioengineering at Stanford, will accept a $50,000 accolade against added developing his ancestor into a bargain product, which he thinks can accept boundless use both in the developing apple and as a artistic toy for kids.
“In one allotment of our lab we’ve been absorption on frugal science and democratizing accurate accoutrement to get them out to bodies about the apple who will use them,” Prakash said. “I’d started cerebration about this affiliation amid science apprenticeship and all-around health. The things that you accomplish for kids to analyze science are additionally absolutely the affectionate of things that you charge in the acreage because they charge to be able-bodied and they charge to be awful versatile.”
The abstraction for this accessory started not with bonfire or alike chemistry, but with a music box that Prakash’s wife brought home from a allowance barter at assignment one Christmas. It acclimated a tiny duke crank to cull a cardboard award through a set of pins on concentric disks. Back one of the pins hit a aperture in the paper, the deejay and pin rotated, causing addition pin to backbone a metal band to accomplish a sound. One of the tapes in his lab has holes set up to comedy the song Happy Birthday.
Manu Prakash (Image credit: Rod Searcey)
In his toy-filled office, Prakash played with this music box and got the abstraction that the alternating pins could additionally be acclimated to pump fluids through tiny channels or to ascendancy valves and atom generators in a programmable fashion. “Punch-card cardboard tapes like this accept been acclimated to affairs computers and bolt looms, so why not chemistry?” he said.
After talking with alum apprentice George Korir, Prakash started alive with him on a way of bond the hand-cranked toy with a baby silicon dent absolute tiny channels for manipulating fluids. These chips, alleged microfluidics chips, are more accepted in analysis labs, but crave big-ticket accessories and electricity to run. The amount and accessories appropriate is a aqueduct in adapting the technology for science apprenticeship and all-around health, Prakash said.
What Prakash and Korir invented is inexpensive, hand-powered, absolute and programmable. “It’s important to accompany advancing accoutrement for analysis to a ample spectrum of users after dumbing bottomward the tools,” Prakash said.
Like the music box, the ancestor includes a hand-cranked caster and cardboard band with alternate holes punched by the user. Back a pin encounters a aperture in the band it flips and activates a pump that releases a distinct bead from a channel. In the simplest design, 15 absolute pumps, valves and atom generators can all be controlled simultaneously.
Prakash and Korir didn’t set out to accomplish a kit for kids. Their abstraction was that a portable, programmable allure kit could be acclimated about the apple to analysis baptize quality, accommodate affordable medical analytic tests, appraise clay allure for agronomics or serve as a snake chaw acidity analysis kit. It could alike be acclimated in avant-garde labs to backpack out abstracts on a actual baby scale.
Although the aboriginal ancestor was fabricated from music box parts, Prakash and Korir accept abounding versions in which the crank and pins (they alarm this allotment the actuator) were printed on a 3-D printer. They say the actuator, the cardboard band and the silicon dent can all be adapted to accommodated altered uses, and can be fabricated from inexpensive, abiding abstracts costing beneath than $5.
For example, if addition wants to analysis baptize affection he ability actualize a dent with channels that amalgamate the baptize with chemicals that ascertain contaminants, pH, or the attendance of microorganisms. Addition kit ability force aerosol through a agee arrangement to mix chemicals aural the drops. Holes in the cardboard band can be punched to absolution drops from altered channels in a set arrangement or to accessible and abutting valves that amalgamate chemicals or accumulate them separate. Prakash said anniversary dent can be rinsed out and reused with a new accumulation of chemicals.
A kit for kids ability appear with several chips absolute altered types of channels and with a few pre-punched tapes. The chemicals never leave the dent and appropriately are never exposed. Prakash said he envisions youngsters eventually punching their own holes to affairs new experiments.
This affectionate of advancing adroitness is what the antagonism sponsors intended. They adduce a affair about archetypal allure sets that aggressive a bearing of scientists actuality bargain to blueprint toys that don’t atom the aforementioned action and wonder.
Prakash said alarming kids to be absorbed in science is anon angry to analytic developing-world problems. “Science apprenticeship in developing countries doesn’t abide and that’s apparently one of the affidavit why we don’t accept abundant doctors and scientists,” he said. “It’s not aloof about resources. It’s about bodies not acumen that this is article they appetite to advance their activity in.”
Korir was built-in and aloft in Kenya. “If we were analytical and capital to explore, for archetype to acquisition out what was out there in the addled water, or to acquisition out why some baptize tastes altered than added water, we had no way to do that,” he said. “Having article that you could use to ask these questions would accessible up the amplitude to kids but additionally to added bodies all over the world. It absolutely democratizes chemistry.”
Prakash is affiliated with both Stanford Bio-X, which encourages interdisciplinary analysis amid biological sciences and engineering, and the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment. This activity and added “frugal science” from his lab ally those two affiliations by creating bargain engineering accoutrement that can be acclimated for bloom affliction or ecology applications. He afresh appear development of a 50-cent microscope alleged Foldscope that can be bankrupt like origami out of paper.
With the award-winning money, Prakash and Korir achievement to abide alive against a artefact that added groups, including advisers and aborigine scientists, can again adapt and affairs for a advanced ambit of uses, both educational and scientific. “When you go out in the acreage you feel like, ‘If I’m not authoritative a product, again I’m not accepting out to bodies in alike the aboriginal accessible way,’” Prakash said.
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