Several weeks ago we sent out six Personal Food Computers to schools around the Boston area. Each school made their best effort to maintain the prototype machines and to care for the dozen seedlings that were planted, and every school was able to successfully grow plants!
Last week we went and picked up all of the Food Computers so that we could implement a few of the upgrades that we have ready, but we wanted more feedback from the people who are actually using the systems day-to-day.
To get the most out of the many minds that are working on this project, we e invited the teachers and any of their all-star students from each of the six schools into the the MIT Media Lab for a conversation about what to do next. At OpenAG we are all about collaboration and sharing information and experiences, so we were excited to hear how things have been going!
We first asked the teachers what they’ve enjoyed the most about having their food computers in their classrooms and for the most part their answers were centered around the amount of interest that they generate.
One teacher loved how the purple light draws such a crowd and gets students and teachers talking. He has had inquiries from students, teachers and administrators and hashad many spirited discussions about the possibilities of the technology in schools and beyond.
Each teacher is utilizing the food computers to help them teach different concepts in different ways. Some are focused on electronics and programming, others on climate and environment, and others on plant science and water chemistry. Each class are trying to integrate the food computer into their existing curriculums.
One class of seventh graders has been measuring the root lengths of the different plants and comparing the structures of their hydroponically-grown roots to traditional roots. The teacher quoted a student who had a lightbulb moment; “Oh! The roots probably just grow straight because they don’t have to work their way around all of the solid structures that would be in the soil. Duh!”
The teachers have also loved seeing how much fun the kids are having. “Some kids just come in to pop open the window and smell it,” said one teacher. “They just run in, take a hit, put the window back on, and then leave.”
Other students have become more involved and invested in the success of the Food Computer, caring for it daily, troubleshooting problems, and thinking up new ideas to make it better for the next harvest cycle. One of these all-star students even came along to the meeting with his teacher, and he was full of exciting ideas of ways he wants to improve his school’s the Food Computer.
We’re already prepared to replace the old LCD screens with snazzy touch screens, and connect the food computers to the internet, the user interface, and app so that the classes can begin harvesting data, but what else do they want? We asked and they responded.
Check out our next post for the list of ideas they want us to explore!