greenSTEM Network connects youth to the environment by giving students in Philadelphia-area schools the ability to monitor data from gardens, green roofs, and various types of green stormwater infrastructure.
“It’s both a website and web application, and a physical product,” said Matthew Fritch, environmental engineer with the Philadelphia Water Department (PWD). “We set it up to allow students at schools to monitor their rain gardens.
greenSTEM Network is a collaboration between PWD and a mix of software developers, programmers, environmental engineers, designers, and many things in between, according to its website.
Fritch started developing the software during a hackathon sponsored by the School District that aimed to address education issues. He then took his project to Code for Philly and teamed up with programmers Chris Nies and Kevin Clough to create what is now greenSTEM Network.
The project uses low-cost, DIY sensor kits (named Root Kits) and open-source code to display real-time environmental data (such as soil moisture, precipitation, sunlight, and temperature). Students can use the data to help maintain a healthy school garden, learn about water-related issues, and conduct scientific experiments and analyses.
The Root Kit.
In addition, students will learn to program, solder, design, build, install, calibrate, and monitor the sensors. There are currently four schools involved in the project: Greenfield, Nebinger, and Cook-Wissahickon elementary schools as well as Science Leadership Academy’s Beeber Campus.
Greenfield, Nebinger, and Cook-Wissahickon elementary schools are all part of PWD’s Green Schools program and worked with PWD to construct new school yards and rain gardens. Science Leadership Academy doesn’t have a rain garden, but it is looking to get one. The students at Science Leadership Academy are helping to assemble the root kits.
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“I’ve just started teaching them to solder and they’re going to solder circuit boards and go to other schools and be ambassadors, which is great,” Fritch said.
Students also had the opportunity to help design the housing for the sensors through the greenSTEM Challenge, a design competition for students to create designs for the housing that will protect the sensor. They were encouraged to think of recyclable materials that could be used in the design as well.
The top design from each school will get their design built and installed in a location on school grounds. The winning students (announced April 11) will work with a Philadelphia-area designer and teacher from each school to build the housing. The first one will get installed on April 22, on Earth Day. Fritch hopes to have the rest installed around the end of April.
(Images c/o greenSTEM Network)