Hands-on Learning

August 24, 2017

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Phil Thompson, professor of civil and environmental engineering, ran a two-week camp for kids at the Rotary Boys and Girls Club in the Central District. Students ranged in age from 11 to 17. 

Thompson, who also serves as director of the Center for Environmental Justice and Sustainability, led the camp as a fellow with the Center for Community Engagement. He reports: 

“The first topic was e-waste and becoming more of a fix-it culture. Each student learned to replace the battery and screen on an iPhone. The second topic was aquaponics where we again wanted kids to work with their hands by building an entire aquaponics system which involves measuring, cutting and gluing PVC pipe and using elbows, tees, couples and valves. Students also learned about pumps (engineering), hydroponic farming of Bibb lettuce (biology), water quality testing (chemistry) and Raspberry Pi microcontrollers (technology). The Raspberry Pi will send real-time water quality data to the web so you can check the dissolved oxygen, pH, temperature and flow.” 

“We also took a tour of the aquaponics system at WMS, the Bullitt Center (learning about sustainable building) and the Center for Wood Technology (learning about carpentry). The final objective was to see if we could improve student attitudes toward fixing and building things and toward careers in the trades or electronics repair.”

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