My RoleLead UX Designer
Sep - Dec 2019
2 x UX Designers
1 x Project Manager
1 x Prototyper
How might we empower scuba divers to collect deep sea sample and contribute to micro-plastic research?
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:
Bridging scuba divers with research scientists
How it works
The onboarding process helps scuba divers understand the purpose of the project and why using a dedicated collecting kit is necessary for scientific research.
& 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.
& 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.
& 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.
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:
1. Underwater samples are necessary but inaccessible and inconclusive.
2. Citizen collected samples are inaccurate due to lack of important data.
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.
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.
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.
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
We scope the initial target user as scuba divers who have more experience and at least has open water certificates.
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.
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
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.
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:
Trapezoidal bottles affect buoyancy.
A small button is difficult for divers to slide open with thick dive gloves.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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
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.