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Pre-social distancing, teammates in SCU’s Forge Garden with their hydroponic system. From left: Andrew Feldmeth, Alex Estrada, Carson Edgerton, Claire Pavelka, Andrew Jezak, Katya Fairchok

Pre-social distancing, teammates in SCU’s Forge Garden with their hydroponic system. From left: Andrew Feldmeth, Alex Estrada, Carson Edgerton, Claire Pavelka, Andrew Jezak, Katya Fairchok

A Sustainable Leap Forward

Engineering students and peers from Public Health Science teamed up to design a sustainable hydroponics growing system in partnership with South Africa's Leap Science and Maths Schools. Videoconferencing helped the Broncos discover parts onsite a world away that could be recycled for the project.

The perfect Frugal Innovation Hub project fulfills three objectives: it is replicable, sustainable, and students gain technical professional experience serving a real client. A hydroponic garden designed in partnership with a South African high school satisfies all three goals with bonus points for being led by a STEM team of biology, environmental science, and engineering students, many of whom are part of SCU’s year-long research course, Engineering World Health.

Working with one of the seven Leap Science and Maths Schools providing free education in high-need communities, the team’s design uses kitchen greywater as input water for a soilless farming hydroponics system. The system has beds for growing both leafy and rooted vegetables, and includes a retractable shading structure to prevent scorching. The team also created an educational component of lesson plans and activities on hydroponics, biology, biochemistry, ecosystems, and climate change that can be adopted by the six other schools.

Over the course of several weeks earlier this year, SCU students met via videoconference with Raphael Mukachi, principal of Leap 5, to determine expectations and learn what materials were on hand for building the system. Their design makes use of discarded pipe, an old tub, and other locally-sourced materials, and they scavenged SCU’s campus to build their own prototype in the university’s Forge Garden. They also held weekly group chats with Leap students, engaging them as plans evolved.

In June, the plans and curriculum will be turned over to Leap 5, and the graduating seniors will take with them improved collaboration and communication skills and the experience of a lifetime.

Engineering, SOE

Pre-social distancing, teammates in SCU’s Forge Garden with their hydroponic system. From left: Andrew Feldmeth, Alex Estrada, Carson Edgerton, Claire Pavelka, Andrew Jezak, Katya Fairchok

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Santa Clara, CA 95053

Heafey-Bergin, Bldg. 202
Guadalupe Hall, Bldg. 455

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