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Project Galene
I designed a mobile application and sample collecting device that allows networks of scuba divers to collaboratively collect micro-plastics sample and report data for scientific research.

My RoleLead UX Designer

Sep - Dec 2019
11 Weeks

2 x UX Designers
1 x Project Manager
1 x Prototyper

3D Printing

My contribution

Contextual Research
Expert & user interviews, contextual inquiry, user persona, help with research synthesis and list constraints and opportunities for product’s roadmap.

Physical Device's Ideation & Design
Insight synthesis, user tasks prioritization, prioritizing important features and prepare user scenarios.

Mobile APP's Wireframes & User flows
Build wireframes, create user flows for different features, user test the flows and iterate from feedback and design final prototypes. Make design and iteration decisions for the physical device prototype.

Design Challenge

How might we empower scuba divers to collect deep sea sample and contribute to micro-plastic research?

Bridge the Gap

Plastic pollution is known to harm the fertility, growth and survival of marine life. Land-based scientists depend on volunteers to gather and collect samples, often a manual and time-consuming process to organize and administer, which makes it hard to access to water and sediment samples off-shore.

To help solve the problem of inaccessible and insufficient sediment samples for micro-plastic pollution research, we adopted a citizen science approach to this problem:

Design Concept

Bridging scuba divers with research scientists

How it works

Scuba Divers

The onboarding process helps scuba divers understand the purpose of the project and why using a dedicated collecting kit is necessary for scientific research.


Explore Projects
& Dive Centers

• Explore projects that are available in your area that you can contribute to, and sample requirements: location, depth, volume, etc.

• Show collaborated dive centers that can provide you collection kits for accurate sediment and data collection.


Setup Capsule
& Collect Sample

• Galene Capsule is a foldable silicon bottle with a data tracker that allows for the easy collection of sediments and sample data.

• Review sample requirements and go to a specific dive site to collect sample.

After Diving

Submit Data
& Drop off sample

• When get back to shore, your phone will prompt you to sync your capsule to submit data

• The app then give you instructions on which dive center to drop off the collected samples.


Formative Research
Scientists' Needs

We interviewed Dr Julie Masura, a micro-plastic expert in Geoscience department at UW Tacoma where she determines the concentrations of micro-plastics in the waters of the Pacific Northwest. We have identified two key challenges for research scientists to use citizen science method for sample data collection:

Underwater samples are necessary but inaccessible and inconclusive.

2. Citizen collected samples are inaccurate due to lack of important data.

Interview & Survey
Understand Scuba Diving

We conducted interviews and surveys with the goal to understand divers with different level of proficiency and how their diving experience, criteria for choosing scuba gear, their priorities and willingness to contribute to any scientific research in the future.

Contextual Inquiry

I conducted contextual inquiry at the Diver Institute of Technology in order to understand how professional scuba divers can successfully collect sediment sample for research purpose. Visiting a dive site helped me understand what it is like to operate underwater and what to look out for when designing a device underwater in the Puget Sound area.

Clip-on hooks on equipment rack at DIT

Diving vest has ring for clip-ons

Dive computer for instructors at DIT

Students from DIT taking diving class

Research Insights
Insights to Design Implications
Insight 1

Divers cares about how device is attached

Survey result shows that Function (39.27%) and Easy to attach (35.6%) are the important criterias for choosing gear.
From contextual inquiry, I found out carabiners are the most convenient way to take additional devices when people go diving.

>>> Design Decision 1

Insight 2

Novice divers are hesitant about new tasks

28% of the survey responses came from novice scuba divers. Even though 97% of them express "hope to contribute to scientific research in the future", they also expressed concerns in collecting samples themselves.

"I can barely take care of myself when I go diving, I will be very anxious if there is another task for me to complete underwater" - P3

>>> Design Decision 2

We scope the initial target user as scuba divers who have more experience and at least has open water certificates.

Insight 3

Current diving device doesn't collect necessary sediment data

Most instructors and students at DIT wear dive computers like a watch, and it provides longitude, latitude, depth, water pressure, etc. However, they still lack some important data like they cannot measure the sediment volume, and it is not convenient to upload the data promptly.

>>> Design Decision 3

Design Principles


Device Design

Based on the above design principles, we explored a variety of form and material through 24 sketches that explore the breadth of our ideas that prioritises on two main components of our solution:

• Underwater  data tracker  that  captures  aquatic  data
• Sediment  and  water  sample  collection  device

Down Selection

Based on the research insights and principles, the criteria in the columns are the core design requirements to inform our design. We eventually combined the first and second ideas to fulfill all the needs.

Usability Test
Test with Scuba Divers

We tested the app and device with 3 scuba divers with different proficiency of diving. Focused on the understandability of the mobile app and the usability of the hardware, 3 main tasks were conducted by the users during the test:

Physical Design

Device Iterations

Trapezoidal bottles affect buoyancy.
A small  button is difficult for divers to slide open with thick dive gloves.

Design Changes
Streamline sample collector
Make a big button, press and hold to open.

Most advanced divers have diving computers that log aquatic data  as S-biner do.

Design Changes
Relocate  data tracker on to  sample collector, simplify data tracking function.
Data tracker and LCD display, which shows aquatic data such as geolocation, time of dive, depth, etc during the sampling process.

App Design
User Journey

To facilitate the process of sample collection, the Galene App can help find projects nearby, connect to the Galene device to record sample collection, and submit data to the researchers.

App Design
App Design
Mobile Iterations

Final Flow B - Find A Project

Usability Test Feedback:
1.  Novice divers are not comfortable with collecting water samples for research purpose by themselves.
2. Need a clearer instruction of how to collect the sample.

Design Changes:
1.  Narrow down target user to advanced divers.
2. Add “how to you collect sample” instruction.
3.  Since data tracking function has been relocated to Galene Capsule, set up  and connect Galene Capsule after divers confirm to join the project.

Final Flow C - Submit Sample

Usability Test Feedback:
1. Participants need more instructions of the sample submission process.
2. Participants would like to edit the dive log before linking aquatic data to the project.
3. Participants prefer to reuse the sample collector instead of one-time use.

Design Changes:
1. Add Galene Capsule sample collection tutorial and detailed submission process.
2. Add the “edit log” function before sample submission.
3. Add a sample bottle in the last step of sample submission process. Divers can pour the water sample in the sample bottle and reuse the Galene Capsule.


My team and I presented the project to users at Diving Institution of Technology and hosted a critique session to showcase the system to research professionals. We received both great enthusiasm and positive feedback.

& Reflections
Talk to key stakeholder more

Talking to more researchers will provide us a better understanding of the different research needs. Further, establishing validity to our solution. By doing so, Galene kit could be use for different kinds of research as well

More testing

Testing the prototype under constraints (e.g. underwater). Doing so, allow us to simulate similar environment that scuba divers would have. Putting ourselves in their condition, their shoes.

Star Travel
Product & Website Design
VUI & Accessibility Design  👁️

Designed & Illustrated by Weixi Zhang