HAPI team brings multi-dimensional educational opportunities to the high school classroom
The HAPI Project has announced a collaboration effort with the East Hickman High School to build an environment monitoring system to provide near real time information about the growing conditions inside the school’s teaching greenhouse to assure the plants and fish are well cared for.
A recent electrical problem caused an air pump failure which led to the loss of nearly all of the fish the students raised for an end of year fish fry. “The pump failure took place on a Sunday afternoon; so no one knew about the problem until Monday and by then it was too late. According to David Flowers, the instructor over the greenhouse facility, “It happened after a daily check, and only took a few hours before the fish started dying.” In the summer months the greenhouse is only checked once a day.
HAPI team member, Mark Miller who lives near the school heard of the fish kill and told Flowers about the HAPI efforts. “There was a perfect fit. Simple technology, the need and the academic setting,” said Miller. A brief discussion, a few phone calls to supervisors, some enthusiastic feedback from students and the project was born.
Students will design the monitoring system based on what information they need to operate their facility. They will learn about the capabilities and recent trends in computer and electronics towards making it yourself. They will build, install and program the system with the help of the HAPI team.
The Hydroponic Automation Platform Initiative (HAPI) team is focused on developing and sharing low-cost techniques and technologies for precision agriculture. A major part of the HAPI effort is education. “The high school greenhouse is the perfect opportunity to share HAPI technology”, said Tyler Reed, the founder of the HAPI project. The project is Open Source, Open Hardware and the open and free sharing of information is the heart of the philosophy.
The hardware required to implement the system at the greenhouse is being provided to the school free of charge. A grant from Corpal, Inc., a Nashville-based HAPI supporter is providing the computer, the sensors and the various components needed. The school is providing low-voltage wiring and the labor to install the system.
“A commercial solution is cost prohibitive, so HAPI is a great fit for us. The HAPI team has the expertise to ensure our efforts are successful. While the technology is not cutting edge it is new and unknown to us. HAPI will participate in the educational program to inform students about key technologies. It’s not enough to put a system in place and walk away. Not when we can also teach the kids what the system does, why it’s needed and how it works. It opens up the educational possibilities of the greenhouse.
In addition to teaching the biology, chemistry and agriculture sides we can now provide the opportunity for hands on learning about programming, electronics, networking and data communications. There are a number of past students operating their own greenhouses and trying to make a living. This type of knowledge could be invaluable to them and their success. “If we can stimulate just one kid to pursue a latent interest in science or engineering; then we have succeeded as educators,” said Flowers.
Flowers summarized with, “We’re thrilled to have HAPI as an extension of our greenhouse and our educational capability. We don’t have the expertise, yet, to teach the computer and electronics side, but with the HAPI team as a guest in our classroom we are learning. It’s an excellent project for a school to be involved with.”