Helping to Develop Sustainability
In an effort to help develop a more sustainable community, The Big Tomato has partnered and sponsored several local projects exploring the advantages of hydroponics & indoor gardening. These partnerships are a major factor in helping to realize a community’s desire to become subsistent through helping to facilitate green education. The following testimonies are from members of the Lakewood community in Colorado involved in the RISE, S2TEM, and HUNCH programs.
Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability and Education
“The Red Rocks Institute for Sustainability in Education (RISE) is a collaboration of educators, business, and community to develop new or better ways to educate for entrepreneurship and sustainability and support innovation in the marketplace. One of the goals of RISE is to create a Center for Sustainability and STEM Education as an experiential teaching and learning facility. The Center will serve as a unique environment where educators from Red Rocks Community College, Colorado School of Mines and Jefferson County Public Schools collaborate around innovative 21st century education that involves students in science-based community projects. At the Center there are several vacant greenhouses but RISE lacked the knowledge base to successfully grow indoor gardens. RISE has benefitted immensely from the knowledge, energy and commitment by partnering with the Big Tomato to retrofit the facility. The Big Tomato has generously worked with educators and students to develop new understandings of how food grows using hydroponics and work hands-on with students to build growing systems.”
- Liz Cox (Director of RISE)
Sustainability, Science, Technology, Engineering, and Education
“The Big Tomato has been assisting the S2TEM program at Warren Tech in a number of ways. They have really helped jumpstart our program by offering not only their expertise, but financial support as well. They helped to facilitate the recovering of our 100’ hoop house, helping us gain access to materials at cost. They participated in our community clean up day which brought together students and faculty from RRCC, CSM and Jeffco as well as other members of the community. They are actively supporting our NASA HUNCH project with plant expertise and materials. They have a real desire to help educate us and are working to help us set up a commercial hydroponic system create a farmers market at the school. Without their help we would not even be close to where we are right now with the progress of our center.”
- Matthew Brown (Warren Tech and Lakewood High School Teacher)
High school students United with NASA to Create Hardware
NASA approached Warren Tech with an exciting prospect in 2009. They wanted high school students to design zero gravity experiments to be conducted on board the International Space Station, where it would stay for six months. Warren Tech proceeded to invite the close Lakewood High School in on the project where they proceeded to declare an experiment involving space-constrained plant growth in zero gravity.
“Some form of hydroponics or aeroponics was the most certain path from the very beginning, and we set out to learn as much as we could about our chosen systems and plant growth in gravity. The result was a ramshackle greenhouse and rough homemade Nutrient Film Technique Systems just outside the LHS workshop. Then we met The Big Tomato, finding eager consultants and wonderful sponsors. The greenhouse transformed with donated Ebb & Flow Systems, larger water reservoirs, better water pumps, nutrient solutions, and more. Plant quality soared and we were able to grow more and test a larger variety of plants for the task of surviving without gravity. The Big Tomato’s expertise and generosity was essential to the experiment’s progress and the experiment’s great success on board the Zero Gravity Flight in the Spring of 2011.”
- Sarah Feller (Former HUNCH Team Leader and LHS graduate)
The experiment prototype–dubbed Hydrofuge for its centrifugal water removal system–returned from its first zero gravity test flight with much applause from NASA. The concept was unique and exciting as the possibility of Personal Plant Chambers for astronauts arose, and stirred up lots of positive attention. With such a reception in Houston, the HUNCH team has already set to work on a redesign of the experiment based on their findings during the tests last Spring. The next test flight is scheduled for late April of 2012.