Team 2 before the merge of groups:

The beginning:

At the beginning things developed slowly. We wanted to get to know each othe but there was a lot to listen to first. The prototyping annoyed some students as we wanted to get going and believed that the prototyping would be just as well done in LEGO, with the other students. The evolution of ideas could also have been condensed into a daily update and brainstorming session, in place of the long sessions at the start.

The AFM builders (students):

One student turned out to be a professional AFM developer, we had someone who could programme, and also people who could build the physical machines. The most difficult thing was communication. Some Chinese students were good at English but we were not very efficient. The art students had never heard of an AFM but could code, so would be very useful.

The clients (high school students):

The high school students wanted to look at new things but they had learned about afm and were only interested in achieving the most advanced things: atomic resoloution, in liquid, with proteins in an active process. They also wanted a simpler interface than the lego one. They basically just wanted to take pictures.

The output and crowdsourcing possibilities:

Maybe there could be an online platform to share the scanned images. High school students could leave comments to improve collaboration.

The plan:

We decided to build the AFM we believed was possible – contact mode with a high resolution scan. Our goal was to look at dried biological systems in order to allow biology and biosystems to become more meaningful to high school students - taking a biological entity that is displayed in textbooks as a cartoon, and allowing the students to take a 3D image of it, with a view to possibly then 3D printing this to feel and see the 3D representation. The kind of things we wanted to observe were: Cells, virus crystals, DNA, and anything else of interest to them.

The would need to use 1 afm with 4/5 computers, so we will need to make that kind of collaboration possible. We think we can do it! There might be coding problems transferring the data into an image but we think it’s possible.

Crowdsourcing could still work – if we had two weeks longer we would have a working AFM. In future, we could write down the design so that others could change it. It will be difficult though – we all have backgrounds in computer science or biology/physics but the high school students have none. They would have to have very good instructions.

We could not really let the school have free rein with the materials to design their own machine – there are class 3 lasers involved. We could release the design open source, with the condition that if you change the design you need to upload your changes. If you were using it in schools you would need a kit. Kids only have 40 minute classes – developing their own designs would take ages. The 3d printed parts could come ready assembled to save them time.

Vibration isolation must be taken into account - AFM may need to be mounted on a 'bungee' mechanism which could be built very cheaply to enable vibration isolation without the expense and storage of an air table or an active damping table.

Team 4 before the merge of groups

The AFM builders (students):

When we first got together, the students who knew most about the technology explained it all to the others. The Art & design students found it hard too keep up and to understand the principles of AFM - there were lots of new words to remember – lots of technical language. The prototyping sessions were really useful for technical communication – we were able to do it visually. The 635 idea was great – 6 students, 3 ideas 5 collaboration rounds – ending up woth 108 ideas. This was really good – amazing to have so many ideas! Only few were good enough to work though. Teamwork has been hard as there have been different people present at different times. The art students were surprised by the amount and complexity of the work involved in the project. Thought it was just building an afm but there is building the software platform too. Not many problems with the teamwork – they have used lego a lot before in college. We think we will get the afm to work, but it won’t be that accurate. That’s ok. She we are thinking about the platform – could do with another week to test and refine.

The client (high school students):

We got lots of information from high school students. We found that they needed a platform to share information – maths and working out how to solve problems in collaboration. They also needed to be able to show their teachers the results as they went along. They found they needed to have both 1 computer controlling 4/5 AFMs and also 1 AFM controlled by many computers. The high school students thought that the software interface was not clear and needed improvement.

The design:'

Things to think about in the design: AFM is new to high school students – they may make mistakes – machines should be stable and strong or they might get damaged – auto save system maybe?

Future applications:

It’s cheap! And it meets the students need so it can be used.

How to take it forward:

Give the students the materials to build one themselves – it will decrease costs. Give ikea like instructions for making but have some online. She thinks that the website for imaging should be different from the ‘how to make an afm' website.

Team 2+4 - Combining knowledge and skills to attempt to create a high-resolution contact mode AFM in a week!

Members of teams 2 and 4 had been working together to share ideas and test components to help achieve the goal in a short amount of time. The decision was made to combine the two teams given the short period of time and the variation in knowledge between the two teams. Team 2 had strength in microfabrication and AFM design, whereas Team 4 had a very strong programming focus.

Building a website to show the potential of a cross china AFM for scientific applications and crowdsourcing analysis

One of our more experienced programmers built a website to show the potential of the AFM to reach across China and bring science everyone through crowdsourcing

Prototyping and building the AFM

Documenting progress

Our students took the time to photograph and document the work being carried out, showing the development of the prototype, the working atmosphere, and the various stages of building a sub 1000 RMB AFM! And some of the programmers took the time to add some glamour to the whole drudgery of late night work jams.

Testing parts

Testing the piezo movement via the detection system using some fun LEGO

Testing an initial optomechanics idea

Acquiring new parts

The Beijing Electronics Markets:

A visit to the huge Beijing electronics markets to buy new lasers and finely machined screws

Where we bought some new lasers - a very bright diode store

Building the mechanics of an AFM

The Lego NXT controllers were tested as part of an initial LEGO design for the system

The 3D printed stage was built onto a lego technics stage holder, which could be moved by micrometers with very fine positioning precision

An AFM housing was designed mainly from metal parts to hold the various components needed for a working AFM

The milled screws were interfaced into the metal design to allow for a manual coarse approach

Programming an interface

An interface to the arduino readout from the photodetector was written to allow for a 3D image to be generated from the laser deflection signal

Actuating the Piezos to enable stage and cantilever movement

The stage was 3D printed, with spaces at the sides designed to be the correct size for the piezos (~10um). After printing, the stage was able to move in x and y, and the piezos were wired up and inserted. A program was written using an arduino board and a HV Amplifier to allow the stage to be moved in x and y in a traditional scanning pattern.

The cantilever was mounted on a piezo to allow for z movement

3D printing

3D printing design was done using google sketchup and outputted as .stl files, readable by a 3D printer

The stage was 3D printed to allow for actuation in x and y via a piezo actuated flexure approach, based on the University of Bristol's HSAFM stage which one of our members worked on during her masters (L M Picco et al., 2007, Nanotechnology, 18, 044030)

The optomechanics were 3D printed originally to allow Lego integration and secure positioning

These were then refined, re-designed and printed to allow for a 45 degree positioning on the metal AFM housing, and to allow for the movement of the optomechanical positioning to high precision - LEGO compatibility will return in version 3 due to time restraints


The arduino was tested for ease of use and compatibility with parts while the photodetector and laser were tested for measuring cantilever deflections using the readout from the photodetector, and the software written to give the readout

The end result

Through a lot of hard work, and good collaboration, team 2+4 managed to build an AFM with a number of attributes. These are listed below. Given 1 or 2 more days, all of these could have been tested and refined to an improved working system with all parts communicating.

The team at the end of the week

At the end of a long week of work and cross cultural collaboration, the team were all exhausted, but pleased with their final result!


在开始发展缓慢的事情。我们想要去了解每一个行吟诗人,但有很多听第一。原型触怒了一些学生,因为我们希望得到去。 一个学生原来是一个专业的AFM开发商,我们有人谁可以计划,并也有人谁可以建立物理机。最困难的事情是沟通。一些中国学生擅长英语,但我们并没有非常有效的。艺术系的学生从来没有听说过的原子力显微镜,但可以编写代码,因此可能是有用的。 也许有可能是一个网上平台,共享扫描的图像。高中学生可以留下意见,以提高协作。

高中生想看看新事物,但他们学会了对原子力显微镜(AFM)和只关心在液体中,实现最先进的东西:原子resoloution ,一个积极的过程中与蛋白质。


我们决定建立最简单的接触模式AFM可能 - 高分辨率扫描。我们的目标是在干燥的生物系统。我们已经取得了便宜的AFM为高中,但精度低。

将需要使用1 AFM 4/5的电脑,所以我们需要做那种协作成为可能。 我们认为我们可以做到这一点!有可能会被编码成图像数据传输的问题,但我们认为这是可能的。

众包仍然可以工作 - 如果我们有两个星期的时间,我们将有一个工作的AFM 。 在未来,我们可以写下来的设计,以便其他人可以改变它。虽然这将是困难的 - 我们都有计算机科学或生物学/物理的背景,但高中的学生也没有。他们就必须有很好的指示。

我们真的不能让学校有自由发挥的材料来设计自己的机器 - 有3类激光器。我们可以释放设计的开源的条件,如果你改变设计uyou需要上传您的更改。如果你使用它,在学校,你需要一个包。孩子们只有40分钟的课程 - 开发自己的设计将采取年龄。 3D打印件组装,节省他们的时间可以来准备。


当我们第一次在一起,谁知道学生最关心的技术解释这一切给了别人。 艺术与设计专业的学生觉得辛苦跟上并了解AFM的原则 - 有大量的新词,要记住 - 大量的技术语言。原型会是真正有用的技术交流 - 我们能够做到这一点的视觉。 635的想法是伟大的 - 6名学生, 3想法协作轮 - 结束108 WOTH想法。这是真的很好 - 令人惊异的是有这么多的想法!只有很少的工作,虽然不够好。 团队一直在努力,一直有不同的人在不同的时间。

我们得到了很多从高中学生的信息。我们发现,他们需要一个平台来共享信息 - 数学和工作如何解决合作中存在的问题。他们还需要能够展现自己的教师,他们一起去。 他们发现,他们需要有两个一台电脑控制4 / 5原子力显微镜AFM由多台计算机控制。高中生认为软件界面不清晰,急需改善。

艺术系的学生的数量和复杂性,参与该项目的工作感到惊讶。以为这只是建立一个原子力显微镜( AFM ) ,但有正在建设的软件平台也。

事情要考虑在设计中:原子力显微镜是新高中的学生 - 他们可能会犯错误 - 机器应该是稳定和强大,他们可能会损坏 - 自动保存系统也许?

不是与团队的许多问题 - 他们已经用LEGO很多在大学之前。

我们认为我们会得到原子力显微镜的工作,但它不会是准确的。这是确定的。她大家都在思考的平台 - 可以做的还有一个星期的测试和完善。