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Best of the Week 2018-2019: Teaching to the Future


As part of their Computer Science Independent Study course, Justin Planovsky '19 and George Platko '19 are in the process of creating an autonomous hydroponic planter that will be used by St. Ed's Environmental Club. This project incorporates what Justin and George are currently learning about regarding building smart devices using Windows 10, such as Thinksmart speakers, thermostats and refrigerators, as well as the subject of the Internet of Things, which focuses on embedded systems development. "The Internet of Things is evolving, even though we may not notice. Our Engineering Department has developed curriculums to maximize our students' exposure to the field in both our digital control systems courses and our traditional computer science courses," says Mr. Anthony Mortimer, Computer Science teacher and Assistant Director of Innovation.

Justin and George have also pulled concepts from different disciplines in order to better understand what conditions are required for plants to thrive in a given environment. Using their electrical engineering skills, both students have designed and implemented circuits to create this self-watering device. By using an aeroponic unit, their autonomous hydroponic planter will allow plant roots to be hung in the air and be frequently misted with water containing nutrient solution. Additionally, sensors will be installed to test various conditions of the plants around the clock, including light quality, temperature, humidity, nutrient strength and pH levels. The raw data will be tracked and accessible through a Windows 109 application running directly from the aeroponic unit. The data, which has been programmed to be formatted and readily available, will automatically be sent to the web service to be downloaded and manipulated by the user. This autonomous hydroponic planter will assist in taking care of plants without human help and will provide data to help users better understand plants' needs.

"All the mechanical wiring, chemistry balancing, and systems management were created by these students. My Department Chair, Mr. Matt Falk '98, also helped us procure the hardware we needed to get going on this project," says Mr. Mortimer. "This project will benefit the St. Ed's Environmental Club, who'll be able to learn more about what plants need to survive. This device will give them a sustainable addition to their greenhouse." Justin and George plan to have their autonomous hydronic planter completed soon so the Environmental Club can start using it in the greenhouse this spring.

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