The Future Is Green

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SPS Chapters on Hands-on Projects

The Future Is Green


 Iza Lazaneo, former SPS Chapter President, and Ian Reyes, former SPS Chapter Research Coordinator, Northern Virginia Community College

Students deconstruct a coffee machine. Photo by Iza Lazaneo.As a small SPS chapter at Northern Virginia Community College, we try to do the most with what we have. In recent years, we have been able to create a makeshift makerspace with tools and technology that helped us carry out types of projects never before seen at our school.

Our SPS chapter chose to focus on sustainability, green energy, and science engagement for 2019–20. Some of the projects that we designed using our makerspace include a computer-monitored, self-sufficient greenhouse and a coffee machine that operates entirely on solar energy.

After researching greenhouse methods, we decided to use hydroponics—a type of horticulture without soil that uses mineral nutrient solutions and water. To monitor and control water levels, humidity, light, and other important metrics, we programmed an Arduino board to collect measurements, turn UV lights on and off as needed, and cycle water appropriately.

After we had the basic setup, we tested different plants and different nutrient compositions under our UV lights. We modified plastic containers so that water could flow evenly through them and then we planted seeds. Unfortunately, the plants had not had enough time to grow before campus was locked down due to COVID-19. At the end of the semester, SPS chapter members had planned to present the Greenhouse Project during George Mason University’s STEM Fair, but due to the pandemic, this event was cancelled along with our own STEM fair at NVCC.

In the fall semester of 2020, our advisor gave the chapter a used solar panel. The source of the panel was unknown; however, we suspect that it was an older solar panel previously used to power lights on campus.

We tested the solar panel outside, and we were happy to find out that it still worked! We had previously bought a coffee machine at a thrift store because some members wanted to see how it worked. Once we had the solar panel, they took the coffeemaker apart to investigate how it could be used with the solar panel. We hope to use this device to generate engagement within our college and to generate funds for new and exciting SPS chapter projects.

Greenhouse model designed using Inventor (CAD software). Photo by Ian Reyes.

Some of the materials used for building the greenhouse. Photo by Iza Lazaneo.

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SPS Chapters on Hands-on Projects