Multi-Disciplinary Hydroponics Project

Posted on Categories Academic/Technical Skill Integration, Project-based Learning

At a Glance

Students in the Horticulture, Plumbing, Electrical, and Culinary Arts programs at Upper Bucks County Technical School collaborated on a hydroponic technology project.

Overview

The purpose of this initiative was to create a multi-program project that used new technology and created experiences that involved higher learning opportunities in science, design/build concepts, farm-to-table and nutrition education, and greenhouse operations. This unique project brought together three programs offered at the Upper Bucks CTC: Plumbing, Horticulture, and Culinary Arts.

As part of a new greenhouse and building renovation, the school built an addition to their greenhouse, which is operated by their Horticulture program. The Plumbing program used this opportunity to design and install an aeroponics system to the greenhouse. The Horticulture program began growing lettuce in the greenhouse in the winter and harvesting it for use in the student–run restaurant operated by the Culinary Arts program. 

During the design and installation of the hydroponics system, students in the Plumbing and Electrical programs received hands-on application experiences to new technology, advanced science principles, and exposure to building systems beyond residential and commercial construction.

Students in the Horticulture program learned about a new technology for growing plants, producing food products, and the principles of hydroponics and aeroponics. The project offered students a preview of where the field is going in the future.

Culinary Arts students were exposed to, and able to observe, food being grown in a greenhouse and using new technology. They experienced the ability to serve fresh foods even though they were not in season. They receive instruction in new farm-to-table concepts and how to prepare food directly from the producer.

Origin / Implementation

This project incorporated academics, technology and science. It addressed the need for the Horticulture program to teach skills in hydroponics, new growing technologies, and greenhouse operations. In addition, the Plumbing and Culinary Arts programs were able to participate to enhance their curricula and bring the latest technology and practices to their classrooms. Students from all three programs completed real-world, authentic problems using new technology.

Results / Impact

In 2014-15, the first year of the project, the Horticulture program grew approximately 90 heads of lettuce per week. The lettuce was delivered to the school kitchen, where the Culinary Arts students used it to prepare lunches. Plans to grow other vegetables are in the works.

The collaboration between the programs highlights the value of project based learning since it duplicates what is found in industry where systems and jobs are intertwined. Teachers in all three programs also benefited by receiving training in new technology and practices.

The collaboration at Upper Bucks County Technical School continues to grow in the greenhouse. The Plumbing Technology Program will continue to provide assistance with the automated irrigation system purchased through the Seed Change Grant. The Electrical Technology Program will develop a plan to install a solar powered module to power the LED lights once they are installed in the greenhouse. As a result of these efforts, the Landscape Construction & Plant Technology Program will be able to grow a more diverse variety of vegetables out of season which allows the Culinary Arts Program the opportunity to incorporate additional fresh vegetables into their dishes.    

Contact

Upper Bucks County Technical School

Bernard Wagenseller, Director
Email: bwagenseller@ubtech.org

Michael Herrera, Principal
Email: mherrera@ubtech.org