Team:WashU StLouis/Public Engagement

Our team worked on developing an educational pamphlet to help curb the negative effects of advocating for the use of pesticides. After meeting with farmers and NGOs we realized that our project could have negative health implications to the environment and the user if they spray pesticides incorrectly or in an unsafe manner. We met with several farmers and NGOs in Uganda and Ethiopia where pesticide application is notoriously poor. They provided suggestions on what to cover in our pamphlet. After talking with Dr. Parikh in the anthropology department at Washington University, we decided that it would be best for local students and community leaders to communicate these important ideas to farmers to improve the pamphlets effectiveness. We also will be presenting our work to several high school students at our alma maters and a middle school in St. Louis through the Studio Tesla program.

Educational Pamphlet on Farming Practices

Components to be included in our educational pamphlet are included below. The subjects or topics listed below were suggested by farmers, NGOs, government officials, safety equipment manufacturers, and researchers. This section is something that is imperative to effective and appropriate future implementation of our hardware and project.

To be included in safety section:

  • Recommended safety equipment
    • Include more specifics based on chemicals and method of application for that area
    • Include other ways to protect farmers when more effective safety equipment is unavailable due to expense or location (cloth over mouth)
  • Hazards of unprotected spraying
    • The potential negative health outcomes should be portrayed in ways that are most impactful to the intended audiences
    • Different safe techniques for...
      • Spraying pesticides
      • Mixing pesticides
      • Storing the chemicals

To be included in farming practices section:

Often when fungicide is used by smaller farmers, other practices confound the impact of fungicide because there is something else hindering growth of the crops.

  • How to seed
  • Detection of pests
    • Individual plants and pests, what to spray/do for each
  • How to best spray
    • Application method
    • Timing

Educational Pamphlet/Instruction Manual for Hardware

In order to have a well functioning piece of hardware farmers can use to detect rust fungus, we would need an instruction manual accompanying the hardware. Using feedback from Dr. Parikh and her ugandan research team, we should use ugandan students and professionals to best develop an instruction manual appropriate for that audience. This can be expanded to other areas. The best instructions will come from people more accustomed to the target audience’s background. Ideally these instructions would be written on the side of the device for ease of access.

Things to be included in the instructions:

  • How to use the solar charger
  • How to connect the battery to the arduino inside the hardware
  • How to collect samples in fields
  • How to insert the collection disk into the container of rehydrated cells
  • How to operate the device, first blanking the system and then measuring the difference
  • How to read and interpret the response

Promoting synthetic biology education with younger students

We are collaborating with the Studio Tesla group on campus to produce an engaging activity for students at a local middle school. This activity will be done after the competition as a way for our team to celebrate our accomplishments and give back to the local community.

Our team member Elizabeth was also invited to present at her high school when she returns for winter break.