Part of Tech Wizards programming includes doing a community service project, which we integrated into OMK’s July 2014 camp. 4-H Educator Rose Garritano connected us to another UVM Extension employee, Ben Waterman, who has been working on a solar powered water pump. This paired well with our work building solar powered cars! Ben, in his role with UVM’s Center for Sustainable Agriculture, is working out kinks in a solar powered water pump project that irrigates water dependent rice paddies of new American farmers from Nepal.
The task of the Tech Wizard campers was to create a new and or modified version of Ben Waterman’s current water pump design. Youth were told that their design needed to follow these guidelines: be able to rise and fall with the river’s water level, withstand various weather occurrences, house a stable place for the water pump, as well as be designed to not get stuck in the mud of the river bank.
Students broke up into groups of 3 or 4 to come up with a design and construct their vision. Materials available to groups were: large and small popsicle sticks, aluminum soda cans, 12 oz soda bottles, hot glue, and duct tape.
OMK Tech Wizard campers spent one day designing and constructing their water pump flotation devices. Once youth had a design plan, they dove right into their first stage of construction was complete. After a good stopping point in their construction we circled up as a group for design presentations- an opportunity for others to give feedback. This provided groups with the opportunity to brainstorm further construction and learn others suggestions for their designs. It was a great opportunity for youth to be reminded of challenge guidelines and to think a bit more about their design.
After youth finished their second phase of construction, we came back together as a group to practice presenting designs in preparation for presentations to Ben Waterman. Ben came to our camp and listened to design explanations. He told the kids about his water pump’s current design, its successes and failures, as well as a bit about the farmers and their crops. The group of Nepali farmers he works with are trying to figure out how to successfully grow rice in Vermont. Part of this challenge is keeping the rice paddies fully stocked with water- which is where the solar powered water pump comes in. Things in the design that they are still working on are keeping the water pump low maintenance and a design that won’t get stuck in the riverbanks.
After youth presented their designs to Ben Waterman he gave each group feedback about their design and told them how their design could be applied to the water pump project down at the farm. It was really exciting to see kid’s hard work contributing their innovative ideas to a relevant local agriculture project in their own community!