It was my pleasure to participate in Pi-Top’s “Learning By Making” event in New York City earlier this spring. It was an opportunity to share my philosophy about teaching our youth as well as share the great things the students of West Hollow Middle School are doing. The event was held ahead of the launch of their new product, the Pi-Top , which is launching a kickstarter campaign tomorrow. You can be an early adopter by accessing it HERE.
The New York winter has been long, but that hasn’t stopped West Hollow’s “Farmers of the Future.” A big thank you to Red Hat Open Source Stories for featuring our work in their most recent release. You can view it HERE.
Our student engineers have worked long and hard to construct their very own community garden just inches away from their cafeteria. Each day students watch as the CNC farming robot that they built with their own hands seeds, waters, weeds, and photographs the crops they have coded it to tend to. Over the last 100 days, students have designed algorithms that tend to one dozen different species of plants. This week we were finally able to harvest our first yield of fresh vegetables that were weighed, packaged, and donated to the Island Harvest food bank based out of Hauppauge. In total, we collected 20 pounds of produce that will find its way to the dinner tables of those suffering from food insecurity in nearby communities.
In the coming weeks, we will be restocking our garden with nearly 75 new plants that span almost two dozen species. The goal is to use the automation capabilities of our FarmBot to raise a new crop of donations during the summer vacation. We will code and monitor it from remote locations to truly see what our future farm is made of. Check back next week when we will be updating the progress of the new plantings and welcoming some high school students from Kuopio, Finland into our farming community.
West Hollow’s FarmBot is in full swing as it efficiently tends to our spring crops. No need to worry about the weather outside when you have a climate-controlled, automated farm right next door to your cafeteria! Part student, part machine, FarmBot executes coded sequences written by 11-13 year old farmers to seed, water, photograph, weed, and test soil variables. We’ve recently added remote video capabilities so that we can monitor the health of our farm from anywhere on Earth that has an internet connection. Crop yields will be donated to Island Harvest, a Long Island food bank, later in the spring. Is this the true future of food? Only time can tell, but the engineering and problem solving skills being developed are certainly moving the future of education in the right direction.
Ryan works on his design of a smart paper recycling bin that will allow him to track the collection efficiency and relate it to its placement in the building. Our current paper recycling program is part of a pilot that is allowing us to understand the paper disposal needs of the building. With only four bins that have been green lit for collection, it is Ryan’s goal to maximize the collection capacity of these bins by placing them in our building’s most highly trafficked areas.
His design incorporates a load sensor that collects the weight from a hacked bathroom scale, an ultrasonic sensor that can detect the volume of the paper in the bin, and a temperature and humidity sensor that can detect if materials other than paper (such as food and drink containers) have been placed in the bin. He is using an Arduino micro controller to collect the sensor data. The data is being passed on to a Raspberry Pi via serial communication where it is then being hosted on an online IoT dashboard that can be remotely monitored and analyzed from his smart phone.
Ryan has developed a communication system that will send him email and text message notifications if the bin is in need of being emptied or if it suspects there may be materials other than paper in the bin. The bin is also equipped with two methods of data visualization that includes an onboard LCD and Neopixel strip acting as a capacity bar graph.
Future iterations of his design will include the ability to maneuver itself to new locations according to learned algorithms of paper collection and foot traffic. He will also be incorporating a PiTop  as the device’s brain which will help provide on board power for greater autonomy.