How to gain better monitoring over our environment in a simple way?

PBL Assignment Design


Explanation about the choice of the idea

In our daily life, sometimes people are not aware of those invisible environmental conditions or subtle environmental changes and thus make inappropriate decisions regarding their plans and outdoor activities which may do harm to our health. For example, kids might go to play in the park while CO2 and other poisonous compounds from factory or street nearby are too dangerous; If girls are going to the beach for refreshment, high level of UV light may damage their skin and cause skin cancer; And people might need to decide how much water they are drinking based on the humidity of air and moisturize their skin when people can not easily sensing it; As for a person who is allergic to something, he/she might want to change seats in public transportation if he senses certain allergens next to him. 

The topic was chosen to provide a solution to the question - how to gain better monitoring and control over our environment in a simple way?  That includes UV, air quality parameters, different allergens, humidity, magnetic fields, wifi strength, etc. Our topic is focused on receiving more relevant and real-time information regarding our health and our surroundings directly and simply. 

The goal of the project is to encourage students to research the topic and propose solutions for the problem. Students are supposed to integrate engineering and design, tackle the problem and progress in their knowledge and skills. Guiding question : How to extend your senses in an intuitive and easy way? The problem defined in a wide perspective in order to enable the students to try and find different solutions.


Assignment design

Background of the topic

Nowadays, Modern people care about  the environment around them more and more. The information people get online is not precise enough because the environment conditions could be various in different places on the map. This information is not always relevant - meaning for example that the monitoring facility/ device does not have the same conditions if it is not exactly at the same location as you. Plus it is hard to find real time measurements. So, it’s necessary for people to have methods to know the conditions around them in real time, accurate and intuitive.

In the market, there are several partial solutions not exactly meeting our demands. Such as wearable devices like sport bands and smart watches. They’re small enough, but they pack many sensors inside of the device, which means customers can’t customize the sensors they want and the data is not very easily accessible. Some available devices on the market are too big and too professional - with many different functionalities and great amount of data available (not all relevant). Such devices are complicated to be used in daily life. 

That’s why students need to find a possible practical solution for the defined need.

 Now, please start inventing!



  1. You will be divided into groups of 3-4 students each.

  2. Every group need to do market research first and decide the functions you want to put in your solution.

  3. Brainstorm your ideas and combine few disciplines together to come up with more creative and relevant solution.

  4. Discuss how to make the functions practical through using different technologies.

  5. Decide on the design of your product and document the plan of your product.

  6. Design, and build a model prototype or several prototypes of your product.

  7. Prepare to present your product to the classmates and be ready for the questions from them. The presentation time should be less than 10 minutes.

All of these works should be done in 1 month. Please remember to submit your assignment progress every week online.


Our expectation from you

  1. Scientific knowledge: materials science; electronics; biology; computer science; product design; environmental sciences. 

  2. Skills: teamwork; project management; time management; interpersonal communication including with instructors, industry experts and peers; critical and creative thinking; presentation skills; market analysis; information gathering and processing; execution; literacy.


4 Stages of the project

  • A. PBL design - Discussing the problem among peers in small groups. documenting ideas.

- Defining and analyzing scientific, engineering, and social aspects of the problem.

- What could be the uses and applications of a solution to this problem.

- Market research.

- Choosing a solution all team members agree on as the best option.

  • B. Project implementation - design, preparation and construction of a model / prototype.

- In teams evaluate the different ideas by innovation taxonomy.

- Dividing the implementation to different tasks, discussing about dividing the tasks and the cooperation of team members on different tasks.

- Monitoring the progress and managing time according to deadlines.

- Writing drafts and refining the solution, gathering and using resources.

  • C. Assessment - provide comments and feedback to 2 peers’ projects.

-Revise your project according to the feedback given by your peers and improve the product. 

  • D. Project presentation - present the goal, design, innovative aspects and outcomes of your project in a visualized way by the use of multimedia and demonstration to your instructor and peers.

-Summarize the competences and skills you have learned from the PBL.


Assignments and stages of the project

1. Researching the problem and writing the findings, what challenges does the project present? Brainstorm for the possible implications if a solution to this problem existed.


2. Evaluating each idea proposed by group members, selecting ONE idea that is most innovative and explaining why.


3. Conducting a market research report based on the most innovative idea your group selected, analyzing current situation of similar products and the competitiveness of the device or product your group is going to design.


4. Designing and building a prototype, focusing on the different functionalities of your product.


5. Providing assessments to the products of two other groups.


6. Optimizing your product according to assessment from instructors and peers and give a final version of your tangible product.


7. Presenting the projects via PPT, short video, website, or other multimedia approaches.



Description (Our solution)

The basic idea is using daily accessories such as bracelets, necklaces and watches to notice people what status the environment index is. There are different types of sports bands and smart watches existing on the market now, of which few are multi-functional and customized. The design of our product takes more health aspects into consideration. In fact, we want to create some smart accessories which have more functions rather than just decoration function and we can get information directly from color change or brightness change, or pattern etc .


Idea:  Customize Sensory Jewelry 

1. You can choose what kinds of sensors ( nanosensors ) you want to have on your device, like sensors of body temperature, UV, air quality, allergens, humidity, heart beats, WiFi strength,etc.

2. The device can be in form of bracelet, necklace, ring, strips on watch, belt, earrings, etc. to make it fashionable.

3. The device will change color according to the scale of the measured data. 

4. The device will connect to your smart phone to provide past readings of the sensor and graphs according to time/ location.

3. The device can also be designed to detect some gestures, in order to enable the device to do some actions, like a certain hand gesture could mean ‘turning on the light’ with the sensors inside the device.



How does it work?

Stage 1: On our website you can customly choose the sensors you want to use in daily life.

Stage 2: Choose the design of your choice for wearable item or items - bracelet, beads, band on you watch or more.

Stage 3: Choose a color pattern of each sensor output

Stage 3: The items are safely delivered to your house 


Possible solutions

  1. To use pixels to coat the beads/ bracelets, and to program the beads according to the request of the customer.

  2. To use smart materials with chromism property - they react with color change to change in different attributes for example :

  • Thermochromism is chromism that is induced by heat, that is, a change of temperature. This is the most common chromism of all.

  • Potochromism is induced by light irradiation. This phenomenon is based on the isomerization between two different molecular structures, light-induced formation of color centers in crystals, precipitation of metal particles in a glass, or other mechanisms.

  • Electrochromism is induced by the gain and loss of electrons. This phenomenon occurs in compounds with redox active sites, such as metal ions or organic radicals.

  • Solvatochromism depends on the polarity of the solvent. Most solvatochromic compounds are metal complexes.

        Many of the sensors from smartphones could be easily adapted for use in wearable products; they could be made-wearable. Finally, as wearable technology hype and investment peaked, many organisations identified many sensor types that could be developed specifically with wearable products in mind. These made-for-wearable sensors often remain in the commercial evaluation or relatively early commercial sales today, but some examples are already becoming significant success stories.

TSL2572 Light sensor


  • Ambient Light Sensing (ALS)

  • Approximates human eye response

  • Programmable analog gain integration time

  • Very high sensitivity — operates well behind darkened glass

  • Programmable Wait Timer

  • Small 2mm x 2mm ODFN package

ENS210 Relative Humidity and Temperature Sensor


  • 2.0mm x 2.0mm x 0.75mm

  • Digital pre-calibrated output in K and %r.h.

  • Max. accuracy: Temperature sensor ±0.2°C, relative humidity sensor ±3.5 %r.h.

  • Wide operating range: 1.71V to 3.60V

  • Ultra low power: Stand-by current 40nA, active current 7.1 μA @ 1Hz (1.8V)

Temperature sensor

Ambient Temp. Range [°C]: -40°C to 100°C

Battery - 230 mAh lithium ion polymer (LIPO)


Gesture sensor

Gesture sensor can be used for recognizing your gestures once you move your hand over it.

Nomembrane made from indium zinc oxide using a chemical processing approach allows people to tune the material’s texture and surface properties. It could be applied to human skin to capture various types of physical data for better health monitoring and early disease detection.

Communication with your smart device 

There is only one WiFi module in the whole system. It’s like a hub of the whole system that process the information coming from different sensors and aggregate them before sending it to our phone. The WiFi module and other sensors communicate through the wire which is also used as the lace and in the inner part of the beads.

Each bracelet will have a small wifi transmitter of its own.

Provide an answer by clicking on "Map" and then on "Add an Answer".

Results, Analysis and Discussion

1.  Sebaoun Sapyr (14.08.2019 pm 02.59.23)

The task-

Was very descriptive, the problem was presented in an intriguing way. However, I think the main question in worth being written in a bolder way so that the student is focused on the problem that needs solving. 

The question was to the point, but it seems like it was expecting students to find sensonrs as the "correct" answer.

The solution- is presented as an example, but is limiting the creativity of the student. Sensors are in fact the best way to answer the question, regarding "extending senses". After reading the example, which was very well written and logical, it was hard to think of anything except for it.

The innovative part about the project was the fact that the product is wearable as beads on a bracelet (fashionable, even!) used to detect harmful elements in the air, and report it through a smartphone application. 

Unlike our product, that exists in the market and is portable, but has a very specific use and is not as unique.

Wearable sensors do exist. the most common ones are those who monitor the human body (such as smart watches or medical sensors- source). I couldn't find a similar product that measures the eviornment. 

I wonder wether the sensors can ignore the body temepture, moisture and chemicals (sweat, phyromones...) and focus on the enviorment- since selective work of sensors is a challange (source). Also, maybe try and avoid the use of a smartphone and consider color changing beads? Are the beads water proof? 

You may also want to consider the psychological effect of being so aware of your surrounding. How sensitive are the sensors? Knowing how strong the UV radiation is without the knowledge of how dangerous it is and how to protect yourself from it- might just cause fear.

Keep up the good work, I can't wait to see where else you can bring this project to! 

2.  Yan Gengcong (14.08.2019 pm 10.54.06)

About Design:

There is a very complete structure in your full description. You covered all the parts I could think, background, guidelines, expectation, the process and assignments for students.but in the stages of the project, I wonder whether you can assign a specific time to each task you are proposing, such as task 1 for two days, task 2 for three days like this. So the students are able to design their own plans according to the timetable.This may kind of help them to deal with their assignments.


About Product

I think it’s a very innovative way to combine advanced science with fashion in our daily life. wearing a beautiful bracelet and meantime grasping the air quality and UV length around you will attract many customers who care about their fashion style and health. The video you making remains a good rhythm and the content about your product pushed very naturally. It constructed a complete process of requirements, solutions, and results.


I’m looking forward to your final presentation. It must be very vivid and attractive!

3.  Li Wen Hao (15.08.2019 am 12.06.56)
Peer Assessment

The assignment itself:

You guys have done a great job! The assignment, from a student's perspective, is very clear and logical. It mentions not only how the problem relates to real life, the importance and necessity to be dealt with, and also illustrates detailed guidelines, instructions as well as how to be graded.

However, the assignment itself is a little bit specific. The way the question, which, according to your asignment, is "how to gain better monitoring and control over our environment in a simple way?", is presented narrows the students' focuses on "sensors". Maybe you should make a more general question by laying more emphasis on other core points such as "easy" and "simple" ways as well.

The Solution:

Your solution is impressing, especially for girls I have to say, because it is customize sensor jewelry! I love the way you name your team and the video as well. The solution part does involve enough knowledge for STEM student, and presents quite clear how the product functions. 

However, there are three things that I am confused about. Jewelries on necklace, belt and earrings would be hard to notice the color-changing and thus would it be better if your product be "customize sensor bracelets" or "customize sensor rings"? Moreover, how does the product avoid being affected by human temperature or humidity? Is there any successful product in the market that has made it? The last thing is about the smart materials with chromism property. Would be the smart materials and thus the product affordable for the majority or are they just designed for a targeted group? Maybe you should illustrate more on the potential market a little bit more.


Your solution is more innovative in that it could be customized and presented on a jewelry. That is a combination of technology and aesthetics. And you have almost covered everything because that is sensor after all. 

We come up an idea to measure water quality with, of course, sensor, which is portable as well. There have already been products that can deal with it, to be honestly. However, the innovative part is that our solution, the product itself, are designed to face a targeted group. This makes it convenient for us to do market research and assess the potential of it. 

I am looking forward to your final presentation!

4.  Liu Xianzhong (15.08.2019 am 12.54.14)


Assignment feedback

For the assignment provided, I think it aims to solve a very common but important problem. Once those harmonious materials can be detected and controlled, our health can be protected.


Therefore, the potential market can be huge, which gives students a chance to research the market deeply.


Since the assignment does not specified which kind of harmonious material to be detected, it is a very general question that allows students to choose freely. Also, students need to apply technical knowledge from multiple disciplinary to solve a question like this. For instance, students may need chemical knowledge to figure out how to detect some harmonious gas, but to implement an actual model they may also need the knowledge from electrical engineering and programming.


With the advantages listed above, I think it is a good assignment that provides students chances to develop their comprehensive abilities. The only thing that need to be considered is that this problem cannot be solved without sensors. It may somehow limit student’s idea.


 Solution feedback


Their design tackles the problem in a kind of clever way. Instead of trying to come up with a new detector with new technic, they combined the detector with a bracelet. This solution makes the whole detecting device wearable and it looks cool. People would love to buy it. In general, I would say it is an innovative idea.


However, I think maybe an app on a smart bracelet can do the same or even better. Because a group of integrated sensors can be affected easily in many conditions. For instance, if water is accidently spilled on the users’ wrist, the shown moisture or the humidity may be much higher and the shown temperature may be lower, comparing with the actual environment. Plus, results may not be that accurate if they are measured near human bodies. But all those inaccuracies can be reduced if we download the information from the internet. Because information from the internet will not be affected easily. An app on a smart bracelet which download information directly may provide more accurate and more stable information. That is only my opinion, it may not be absolutely correct.


The solution we provided measures the harmonious materials in a bottle of water and tells the user whether it is drinkable. Similar problems do not exist in our design comparing with theirs, since the monitoring range is small and the measuring result will not be affected by most things outside the bottle.


History of edits
Edited BY: Wenyu Fang Edit Date: 2019-08-14 13:26:42
Edited BY: Wenyu Fang Edit Date: 2019-08-14 13:24:40
Edited BY: Wenyu Fang Edit Date: 2019-08-13 18:38:52
Created By: Wenyu Fang Edit Date: 2019-08-12 12:20:22
More Interactive Questions that might interest you In Biology