Group Project

Number of Students: 3-4 per group

Group Project Deliverables:

  • An iterated prototype of an object, app or other interface that defines a novel interaction with the environmental microbiome

  • A website documenting the process of creation of aforementioned project

  • A short video pitching the aforementioned project.

One group will be selected to present at the BioDesign Challenge at MoMA in June.

In forming the groups, students should fill out the following Group Project Agreement (also found in class Drive folder)

Projects will be evaluated according the BioDesign Challenge criteria:


Has the team deeply considered the possibility of its design coming to fruition? We subdivide feasibility into several criteria:

A. Science
Any science that the students describe should be based in reality. We’re asking students to consider technology that will likely become available five to ten years from now. Has the team demonstrated that trends in current science indicate that their vision will be possible?

B. Suitability
What makes a biotechnological solution the best method to address this problem, as opposed to other technologies or social solutions? Has the team considered why a biological design is the right fit for the problem?

C. Compatibility
How does this vision fit into already-built systems? Does it require an entirely new infrastructure to be built along with it?


In what ways does the product or process have the potential to both positively and negatively impact humans and their environment, and in what ways has the designer worked to mitigate the negative and maximize the positive impacts?

A. Users
How does the design change the lives of those who use it?

B. Nonusers
How does the design change the lives of those who don't use it? These people might include workers involved in its manufacture as well as those who don't have access to the new design or can't afford to pay for it.

C. Scalability
Has the team considered how widely its design might be used? Is this a product or process that’s meant to change an entire global system, or is it a niche product for specific markets?

D. Ethics and cultural suitability
Has the team considered ways in which the vision fits with the moral principles of the cultures meant to use it?


Can the project be achieved with methods that do not deplete or destroy natural resources?

A. Environmental impact
How does the team intend their design to interact with living environments at the sites where it’s manufactured, used, and disposed of? Is the product or process intended to change the living environment? How so?

B. Efficiency
Does this product or process use fewer resources—for example less water or energy—than products currently available?

C. Life cycle
Has the team considered their design’s entire life cycle? Can it be recycled, or reused in other ways?


Has the team considered the potential negative effects of its vision?

A. Safety
Has the team accounted for possible harm to human health and the living environment associated with its product or process malfunctioning? Has the team changed their design to mitigate these risks?

B. Dual use
In the hands of someone with ill intent, any design can be used nefariously. A hammer, meant to bang in nails, can be turned into a murder weapon when swung at a person. Nuclear technology can be harnessed to create energy, but also to create a bomb. Has the team considered how their design might be harnessed for ill intent? Has the team considered how its design could be negatively exploited, and how to mitigate that risk?

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