New research on sensor design to be unveiled at Pittcon March 7th

Tata Center postdoc Michael Bono will present the results of his fieldwork with communities in India.

How can engineers and scientists designing technology for the developing world be sure that their solution actually meets the needs of the people who will use it?

Tata Center postdoctoral associate Michael Bono will present his answer to this question on Tuesday, March 7th at Pittcon, a science and technology expo held this year in Chicago, IL.

Bono’s talk, entitled “Fieldwork Determination of Design Priorities for Point-of-Use Water Sensors for Use in Resource-Limited Environments,” will delve into the methods used by his team to turn dozens of interviews and workshops with residents of Indian villages into design principles for the point-of-use water sensor they are developing.

Co-authors of the research are Professors Rohit Karnik and John Hart of Mechanical Engineering, Tata Center Academic Director Chintan Vaishnav, Tata Fellow Sydney Beasley, and graduate student Emily Hanhauser of Mechanical Engineering.

Time: March 7th, 8:50 AM
Location: W175A

Full abstract:

Improved capabilities in microfluidics, electrochemistry, and portable assays have resulted in the development of a wide range of point-of-use sensors intended for environmental, medical, and agricultural detection in resource-limited environments in developing countries. However, these devices are generally developed without direct interaction with their often-remote intended user base, creating the potential for a disconnect between users’ actual needs and those perceived by the researchers developing the sensors. As different analytical techniques have inherent strengths and limitations, the development of effective measurement solutions requires consideration of desired sensor attributes early in the development process.

In this work, we present our findings on design priorities for point-of-use bacteriological water sensors based on our fieldwork in rural India, as well as a guide to fieldwork methodologies for use in determining desired attributes for other point-of-use sensors. Based on our initial group workshops, we identified five sensor attributes of interest: affordable enough to be owned at a household level, integrated output of amount of contaminant and recommended action, same-day or immediate results, reusability, and minimal required mixing of chemicals. Based on our conjoint analysis interviews, we evaluate the relative importance of each of these attributes. We present initial results in the development of a bacterial water sensor meeting these design priorities, as well as good practices for field-based determination of design priorities as a guide for other sensor developers.