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G10 Micro Greenhouse

By Aidan Hammond, Head of Design Technology, MYP and DP Design Technology Teacher

A key strategy in our Computer Science program at Branksome Hall Asia is identifying ways to make coding and computational thinking real and relevant to our students. We emphasize the application of computational thinking to real world situations and contexts. It is rewarding to use code to move a robot, turn on lights, or use a joystick to control a character on the screen. The connection between the digital and physical is powerful. 

Our G10 micro-greenhouse unit is a great example of applying digital skills to the physical world. Led by MYP Design teachers Michael Gau and Kseniya Maksimava, this project has evolved within our program to become a key learning experience for our students. In this project students use programmable Arduino microcontrollers and a variety of sensors and motors to create an optimized growing environment for plants. The water, soil humidity, light, and air are all controlled by code.  It requires students to research, plan, problem-solve, code, and debug in order to successfully grow plants.

When the online learning period started, we realised this project provided an excellent opportunity to reach out to our students and explore a new and important aspect of the project: growing food for personal use in their home. Working together with our design technician and a team of boarding dons, we quickly packaged together a set of tools, materials, and ingredients. After a trip to the post office the kits were in students' hands in just a few days.  Online learning with physical computing had begun!

Just last week, we sent out the second part, which was all the equipment necessary to build the greenhouse and start growing plants. Already we have some students who are growing plants in a climate controlled micro-greenhouse that they built.

As our world has changed in the last few months, we have had to reconsider many things we take for granted, like convenient access to fresh food. This project has introduced the idea of food security to our students in a very real and authentic way while also teaching them the fundamentals of physical computing and coding. And this is just the beginning of agriculture and its place in our design curriculum. In the next academic year we will unveil some new developments, technologies, and learning experiences for our students to continue to engage with this important issue.