Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future

Teaching & Engagement, 2017


Summary

This project provides an opportunity for youth to develop system-thinking skills by understanding how food, energy and water systems are interconnected. Undergraduate students from the University of Nebraska–Lincoln College of Engineering will design and develop aquaponics system kits as well as lesson plan trainings and implement the project in K-12 schools in rural Nebraska. They will use a train-the-trainer model to prepare middle school educators and high school students to implement the plan in their school system. The youth will develop systems thinking skills by understanding how food, energy and water systems are highly interconnected in our complex world.

Prototype of the aquaponics setup

Under the guidance of project faculty, the undergraduate student team developed two online modules that utilize multimedia and game strategies to engage middle school and high school students in the program. Online Module 1 is called Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future. Specifically, this module covers: What is Aquaponics, The Aquaponics Biological Processes, Water Quality – covering Temperature & Dissolved Oxygen, Nitrogen & pH, Hardness & Calcium, and System States. It also covers Visualizing Data using graphs and charts while teaching about techniques such as smoothing of plots. Finally, the module covers Energy Flow. Online Module 2 is developed for high school students and is called Building the Aquaponics System. This module explains how to instrument a system for data collection with a single board computer (Raspberry Pi) and connect a liquid temperature sensor, a color sensor, a humidity sensor and a radio controller.

Module 1: Systems Thinking for Sustainable Future
Module 2: Building the Aquaponics System

After designing and developing a prototype aquaponics system kit, the undergraduate students then built 12 systems that will be implemented in K-12 schools in rural Nebraska. They will use a train-the-trainer model to prepare middle school educators and high school students to implement the lesson plan in their school system. The first placement in schools began in January of 2018. Project faculty have developed survey instruments for capturing data collection to help in measuring impact of the project.

Impact

In combination with the RFI project, “Developing A Model for Quality of Life” as well as the RFI project “Nurturing High School Entrepreneurs and Transforming Local Business Owners,” this project has earned a $490k USDA grant for high-tech youth entrepreneurship clinics. Details >>>

Project Team

Partners

Presentations

 

Contact: Ashu Guru, aguru2@unl.edu