Our goal is to be able to help create a better future for people who live in Tasmania. We believe the solution is in education, by getting kids excited and interested in STEM at an early age. We want to encourage innovation, to get kids excited about making new things, to take hold of opportunities and to create a culture where kids find science cool and exciting. We realised that the best way to do this would be to give people with creative minds the tools they need to innovate and generate new industry in the state. Green growing is a team of three people so if we want to change the world we need to enlist some help. We realised one of the ways to make a difference was to look at the school system. Currently many students with creative mindsets are pushed away from STEM degrees as they believe they aren't smart enough. From our experience this is due to schools catering largely to audio visual learning styles and formula based assessments. We aim to change this by bringing in a hands-on interactive system, that will help kids develop their skills and foster the belief that they belong in STEM
What it does
We wanted to create a system that would engage students who don't get excited by information from power point slides. As a team of engineering students we were immediately drawn towards the Arduino platform. We knew however we had to be very careful in its implementation in order to draw the interest of kids. In our own schooling Arduino had been introduced but in ways that made it seem not only difficult but boring. We wanted kids to engage with not only just code. We wanted them to work with a physical system that can be powered with it.
Our solution is to use the Arduino to control a hydroponics system. The hydroponics creates a wonderful platform for students to develop their skills. It begins with the most basic coding of timers and outputs. From day one the students will see how 10 lines of code can make their plants begin to grow. With time the students will implement a variety of sensors and will learn to add progressively more complex code. As this happens they will see their plant begin to flourish and see a direct link between the code they have made and the health of their plants.
The hope is that by structuring lessons to involve the building of sensors and short coding sessions we will be able to engage a wide variety of learning styles. The overall goal of this is to give kids the feeling that they belong in STEM and hope that it develops into their passion. We believe that encouraging this wide variety of thinking styles though STEM degrees will equip the future generation of innovators with the skills they need to create new start ups that can strengthen the job market in Tasmania and boost the economy.
The added benefit of this system is also the engagement with agriculture and healthy eating practices. For children in large cities they will be able to get a hands on experience with agriculture. Something that is often impossible to do. We hope that this physical connection with healthy eating will play a part in addressing the obesity crisis that Tasmania currently faces.
How we built it
As engineering students the design and implementation of the system was our biggest interest. It was a quick process to create some basic Arduino code in a library and follow it through to a more complicated final code that we aim to get students to in the final weeks of term. We aim to have the students build the physical system during the courses but we currently have a prototype made of how we see it functioning which is showcased in the video below.
Challenges we ran into
We had the idea coming in which was very helpful. However, as engineers we were very product focus. We had something that we thought was cool but didn't really know what it was for. Talking to the mentors, they helped us to create a space for it in schooling and develop ways it could be run as a successful business.
Accomplishments that we're proud of
We're very proud of building a business model and getting good feedback from the mentors and other competitors about our business.
What we learned
We learned how to form a business model canvas and how to better convey our ideas.
What's next for Green Growing
We want to take our product into the real world. We have constructed a very realistic business model that would allow us to start working in Hobart with very little capital investment. we believe that with the support from a single investor we could start teaching in schools at the start of next term. From there the sky is the limit as the funding from the first project would be sufficient to branch out to a number of different schools in our intimidate area. The ultimate goal would be to refine the business and create a curriculum and training material so that our business could be franchised and help all Australian kids learn about the wonders of science and engineering.