Gamify recycling education

SustainaBin is a recycling bin that helps kindergarten teachers teach kids to protect the global environment. Through the interaction with this gamified recycling bin, kids can gradually form good recycling habits along their education journey.

I built this product prototype when I joined the MIT Entrepreneurship and Maker Skills Integrator (MEMSI) Program organized by MIT Hong Kong Innovation Node in June 2018. The project is a collaboration among 4 university students in Hong Kong and 2 MIT students, and was finished in 2 weeks.


Human has bad recycling habits. Not many people are aware of the recyclability of the items they bought. Even worse, more than 60% content in recycling bins are in fact not recyclable. We believe that a lot of these bad habits have been formed when people are small, especially when there is insufficient and ineffective education that incentivizes kids to care about the environmental impact that they have created.


In the research and interview process, we found that the inefficiency of green education is associated with the low interactiveness and entertainment value of teaching materials. We were surprised that a lot of kids actually know about ways to protect the environment, but tradition education fails to help them transform such knowledge into actions.


To make green education more fun, we came up with the idea of gamifying a trash bin. The bin can be put in classrooms so that kids can interact with it anytime in school.


We think that kindergartens and primary schools have great incentives to improve the quality of education, especially in the areas of STEM and environmental protection. Although parents often request schools to emphasize these areas, they are just the evaluators of our product. After all, teachers are the ones who decide whether to introduce a new set of educational materials and tools. As a result, we chose teachers as our target customers.


The design of our user interface has to achieve two objectives - attracting kids and educating them. Thus, we designed the software as a second-person pet game with cute animal characters. The clothing and appearance of the characters evolve when it gains experience points. And experience can be gained by throwing the right trash into the bins, while keeping as little trash as possible. The interface is displayed on a touch screen powered by Raspberry. We embedded the entire hardware module into four trash bins made of plastic.


After one week of research, interview and brainstorming, We had only one more week to finish our prototype. We divided the team into 3 sub-teams 'Software and UI Design', 'Hardware and Physical Design', and 'Business and Pitching'. Each member can join up to 2 teams. This ensures a good specialization while providing enough flexibility and cross-team collaboration.


We have made a demo to give a better illustration of our product.


Although we didn't manage to win the championship, we were awarded the Audience Favorite. A lot of audiences, including parents, expressed an unbelievable amount of interest in our likable products.