Pop-up Field Lab

Field Lab 4. Sheffield Hallam University

Field Lab 4. Sheffield Hallam UniversityBirds eye view of the inside of the field lab

In September 2011 students and staff at Sheffield Hallam University were invited to take part in the first experimental “pop-up” What’s In My Stuff? field lab. Constructed in a public space within the university the lab created an environment where individuals could engage and participate through an interactive experience. The challenge was to deconstruct a mobile phone into as many pieces as possible. Used phones of various vintages were provided along with the tools to dismantle them and equipment to magnify and record the components that were revealed inside.

Individuals that entered the lab to deconstruct a phone generally fell into three camps. Those who had no practical hands on skills who found even using a screwdriver a challenge but enjoyed the experience, those who had an inquisitive approach and enjoyed the physical process of handling materials and discovering something new and of course the techno guys who revelled in the challenge of cataloguing what everything did.

Visit the Pop-up Field Laboratory Gallery

Participant Comments

"That's the most rewarding half hour I've spent today. It was great to do something practical that has made me think about this stuff."

“Wow that’s amazing!”

"I've never taken anything apart before. I don't know how to do it."

"I was really surprised that not many screws are used. It was so hard to get some sections apart. It was really frustrating at times."

"I never realised how many different materials and elements are used to make a phone"

Key Objectives

  • Raise awareness about the materials and chemical elements used to make mobile phones
  • Create a multi-sensory experience that allows people to discover information for themselves
  • Communicate key facts on materials sustainability
  • Encourage people to value their mobiles
  • Collect consumer data
  • Encourage people to REDUCE – REUSE – RECYCLE

Disassembled Phone

Field Lab 5. Sheffield Hallam University

Field Lab 5. Sheffield Hallam UniversityDisplay showing previously deconstructed Nokia and Blackberry phones

A glass display case housed a previously disassembled Nokia C-500 and a Blackberry 7100V. These components had been carefully cut, rolled, polished and displayed as if they were jewels; highlighting the precious and delicate qualities of individual elements.

Key Facts

Chemical Elements Found in Mobile Phones

Chemical Elements Found in Mobile Phones

Key facts about the chemical elements that are found in mobile phones and emerging issues around critical materials supply, recycling and sustainability were displayed on large screens and posters inside and outside the pop-up lab. Using different display formats of the periodic table put into context the complexity of the 40 different chemical elements found within mobile phones.

View all What's In My Stuff Key Facts


Mobile Phone Ownership Survey Results

Mobile Phone Ownership Survey Results

Two surveys were conducted during the three day event. The first used an analogue poster board format asking two simple questions to discover if people knew what their mobile phones were made of and to catalogue the number of old mobile phones still owned but no longer used. A second, more in depth questionnaire was used to reveal information about how people interact with their phones, what they value about them and explored attitudes to ownership, emotional attachments and recycling.

One of the questions we asked was: ‘Why do you still have unused phones?’

Answers given by people who participated in the first field lab include:

  • Memory / data contained on phone / stores numbers and photos
  • I still use them / some have still got credit / some get better signal than others
  • As a backup in case current one breaks or gets lost
  • Laziness to get rid of it
  • No use to anyone else
  • It still works and not sufficient money to trade in
  • Don’t know what to do with them
  • I’ve paid for them so I want to keep them.
  • My son likes to play games on it.
  • They’re wonderful things – iconic special objects. I keep them in their original boxes in a cupboard.