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Apr. 30—POTTSVILLE — The Nativity BVM High School STEM team is entering its self-watering, high-tech eco-garden into a statewide competition this week.
The project features an irrigation system that collects rainwater for a fruit and vegetable garden at the school. The students developed a soil moisture sensor that detects moisture level in the soil and waters the plants when needed.
Jacob Challenger, a junior and member of the science, technology, engineering and mathematics team, said the members wanted to address the problem of water waste with their project.
"The more we started researching the problem, the more uses we found our prototype had, so we kept expanding on it," Challenger said.
Although the team is currently working on a smaller scale garden at the school, the initial idea was to create a rooftop garden at The Crimson House restaurant in Pottsville.
Benefits of a rooftop garden would include recycling water, watering plants to grow food and reducing city flooding and urban heat.
Furthermore, Kieran Seven, a junior and member of the team, said the garden would "provide a sustainable, healthy source of fruits, vegetables and herbs" to the restaurant.
The irrigation system is powered by a computer operating system called a Raspberry Pi programmer and an Arduino controller. Challenger said that Brian Gardner, an information sciences and technology professor at Penn State Schuylkill, assisted the team with coding the system.
Seth Krammes, a junior, said the team has ideas for further developments of the system, such as a Wi-Fi control to track the water intake, a pH monitor to detect acid rain, a water filter to clean the water and a water refill system.
"These were things that we found that could've been good additions to it, and things that would help with environmental issues in our county," Krammes said.
The team will film a video about the project to submit to the state STEM competition, which is all virtual this year.
Challenger said that the team could expand on the project for next year's competition, but members hope to be able to implement the rooftop garden, whether for the competition or not.
Challenger also said their design can be replicated by anyone.
"If you have a gutter and you want a garden, you can make the system yourself," he said.
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