GSIF Post #5 Rohan Ekambaram

Nature is an amazing mentor for some of the more complicated problems. Watching the video about biomimicry made me think about the correlations between my project and nature. One thing that immediately stood out is the stark difference in the number of complicated materials we as humans use compared to those used in nature. In the natural world there are only 5 polymers used to make everything, but in the human world we use 350 polymers, and most of it is turned into trash at the top of a landfill. The lesson behind this point is that the answer is not always a complicated one, it is often a simple one. This is not always the case but trying to simplify problems is definitely something that we could try.  Another example of how nature can be used as a model is the shark’s way of  keeping bacteria off its skin. The formation of its skin makes it impossible for bacteria to easily bind and cause infection. Instead of using a chemical solution to what is usually known as a chemical problem, the shark has a physical answer for a chemical problem. This just shows that sometimes you have to change the way that you go about solving a problem in order to solve it the most efficiently. It probably will not work too well in relation to my specific project but it is still a good idea to keep in mind moving forward. Finally, nature could also be used to test for humidity. As seen in the video about biomimicry, there is a bug that is able to retrieve water from fog by use of specially coated bumps on its back. This is an amazing evolutionary ability, but it could possibly have applications to my project. The test strips my group is working on cannot be exposed to a lot of humidity or it will show false results. We are looking for a cheap simple way to make sure that each bottle has a way of telling if it has been exposed to too much humidity. If we were able to design a sticker or a button that could trap water from the air at a specific humidity and change color then we could have quality control on every bottle of UTI test strips.

I think one of the most important of Life’s Principles is “Be Resource Efficient (Material and Energy)”. I think this is one of the most important lessons to humanity as a whole. We as people have become wasteful and inefficient with our material. We output dump trucks and dump trucks of trash everyday and we all act like it is just commonplace. We have become inefficient in using materials in every part of our daily lives and it is driving society to the edge of destruction. Because our inefficient use of materials, in about 30 years, the earth’s atmosphere will be past the point of no return unless we drastically change the way we live on this planet. I think this principle also applies to the project I am working on. We are not aiming to make a profit in our venture, we just want to make the people of Sierra Leone happier and healthier. In doing this, we are not able to mass manufacture these strips on our own and we have to look for outside funding. Being efficient with these funds and the materials we get with them is imperative to the success of this project.

I think integrating cradle to cradle would be a lot tougher in a project that involves a screening device since contamination is something that always has to be accounted for and we would have to find a way to use this kind of technique in Sierra Leone where resources are much more limited but I believe it could be done. I don’t know if we would be able to come full circle like the man in the video did with the yarn to carpet idea, but I think we could find a way to make our test strips better. If we could find a biodegradable material to make the strips from, people could use them after getting the results for fertilizing their gardens or something like that.

My friends have taught me many things over the years. The biggest thing they taught me was to enjoy myself and not just do what my parents tell me to do. I used to play the viola and absolutely hated it until one day I saw the trombone and wanted to pick it up. My parents did not want me to but after talking to my friends I realized that I should enjoy what I do and ever since then I have played the trombone. My friends also taught me about the real injustice given to those in the LGBTQ community, not just the publicized stuff. Many of my friends in high school came out and they would often tell me about the insults they received. The final thing my friends taught me about was unhealthy food.  My mother is a pediatrician and would often not let me and my brother eat unhealthy food so eating unhealthy food at a friends house was a novel concept when it first happened.

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