Constructing a Food Computer with the MIT OpenAG Project

Food Computers, the brainchild of Caleb Harper of MIT are small-scale open source environments designed to encourage discovery-based learning in biology, botany, environment, programming, and engineering. Chiaravalle Middle School students are creating a sensor-controlled hydroponic and aeroponic agriculture system roughly the size of a large garbage bin. The OpenAg program invites students to create their own climate recipes and to adjust, adapt and hack the system.

Harper describes the end product as, “a controlled-environment agriculture technology that uses robotic systems to control and monitor climate, energy, and plant growth inside of a specialized growing chamber.”

The Chiaravalle Middle School Food Computer is in the design/build stage. Students work with Middle School Science/Math teacher Jake Roth and the school’s Imagineer Joe Juhnke. Geometry math students are leading the student teams.

For Chiaravalle students, this ties together Montessori discovery-based learning philosophy and an integrated philosophy. For 15+ years, Chiaravalle Middle School students have grown hydroponic basil and sold it to families and local restaurants as part of micro-economy lessons, another key feature in Montessori middle schools; the Food Computer brings STEAM into this experience. From the time these students were toddlers, the idea that they are stewards of the earth is woven into the curriculum. For these young learners, operating in the intersection of environmental activism and innovation comes naturally.

MIT OpenAg

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