Article written by Natasha Shea, P-Tech, Robolliance Expert
If you were doing a word association and said "butterfly garden,” likely “alternative energy" or “robotics” would probably not be the first things you would think about.
But the opposite is the case for Hudson Valley P-TECH students participating in a summer extension week at Rockland Community College. Collaboration and critical thinking are key STEM principles. And so is creativity, which was quite apparent when students began brainstorming applying alternative energy applications in creating a sustainable off- the -beaten - garden on the Rockland Community College campus.
Two areas where students could innovate and problem solve were irrigation and pest control. Developing an efficient watering system became the primary focus, especially since it’s been a hot dry summer in the New York Metro area. The students observed that water had to be carted a distance to water the garden plants. Their suggested alternative was a water collection system using solar pumps and a slow drip system. Using critical thinking and collaborative skills, the students compiled a list of what products or systems they would have to develop.
With groundhogs being a growing concern for the development of the various gardens at Rockland Community College, figuring out a way to keep pests at bay was the next task. As you can imagine, this group of students immediately honed in on robotics and were intrigued by the idea of a robot chasing a groundhog out of the garden. That idea was promptly added to the idea list.
This summer extension week at Rockland Community College was invaluable for the participating P-TECH students. The challenges they took on with enhancing the butterfly garden at Rockland Community College will help them as they face similar issues with the garden on the P-TECH campus. The result of this week could very well be the creation of low-cost inventions that could be used by gardeners everywhere; inventions that not only use alternative energy sources to aide in the sustainability of our natural resources, but also applying engineering in the form of robotics to create a safer and more engaging gardening experience for today’s youth.