November 14, 2014

Project Description

This month, we focused on the paddle for the algae harvester, the method of carbon dioxide production for the algae, and the agitator (shaking device) for the mealworm harvester. The paddle will be used to maintain a constant water flow in the algae tank so that the algae will not settle to the bottom and thus reduce growth rate. Carbon dioxide will maximize the algal bloom. The agitating device will be used to help sift mealworm eggs through a wire mesh to separate them from the beetles.

With the help of three of our mentors, Mr. Reeder, Mr. Korb and, Ms. Sorrels, we managed to construct a paddle equipped with a motor as well as a shaking table, also equipped with a motor.

We've done several tests with the paddle and are still making adjustments to it. We currently have five tanks that are cultivating the Spirulina algae strain (species), and we are also varying their light/heat conditions as well as the nutrients they receive to determine the best environment necessary for optimal growth. A main problem that we encountered was that the algae is settling to the bottom of the tank and clumping, thus hindering further growth. We found that the type of light being used for the algae was the culprit and have changed all of the lights to grow lights that are specialized for plant growth. This has solved our problem. 

We've tested carbon dioxide production with several yeast-sugar solutions containing variable measurements of solute. We've also tried placing alfalfa straight into the algae tank to observe any change in algae growth. We are still in the process of finding the best way to produce the most CO2.

The agitator has yielded great results! With the right amount of voltage, the shaking table can sift through much of the wheat grain to collect the mealworm eggs. We are currently experimenting with different amounts of power to find the amount of eggs that can be collected with each.

Progress during the last month

Mr. Reeder, one of our student members' dad, located shelves in the storage unit of his company and helped us assemble them in the labroom. We now have space to store our equipment, algae aquariums, and mealworm bins.

We also spent an entire meeting organizing all of our tools and equipment and cutting out and installing insulation for the mealworms. Thanks to one of our teachers Mrs. Taylor’s expertise in cleanliness, our work room is now an organized chaos. In addition, with Mr. Reeder’s help, we were able to cut and install the insulation into the shelves. Our worms are warmer and toastier than ever before.

We have collected, cleaned (boiled), dried, and ground algae from a local creek to be a “test drive” for our fish food as we wait for the Spirulina to grow to a sufficient amount. We also dehydrated a few mealworms with a solar oven and created a "formula" prototype. The dried up worms had too hard of a consistency, so this experiment didn't work out too well.

Goals for upcoming month

For next month, before the holidays come around, we want to wrap up the construction of the algae harvester and begin building our solar dehydrator. As it takes several months to raise tilapia from fingerlings to harvestable fish, we need to begin developing our actual fish food formula and testing several different formulas with our fish.

We want to present our project to more companies and businesses and create partnerships with some of them.

We are a bit apprehensive with how much time we have left versus how much we must complete before June. EurekaFest will be here before we know it! 

Networking

We were interviewed by our local KOTV News on 6. See it here!

As a fund raiser, we are considering hosting a lock-in: all members will be locked inside a classroom for an entire day. To be released we must call all of our sources and raise $500 each in donations.

We are also designing a shirt to sell to students and teachers at our school; we are more focused on creating awareness to our project rather than raising money.

On December 1 we presented our proposal and project to a group of prospective sponsors. The presentatation gave us a good practice for future ones as well as gave us insight on how we can make it even better the next time. We plan on hosting many more events to gain partnerships with local businesses and companies.

Teamwork

Our team's cooperation and communication has improved so much since we've designated leads and roles. Even though each member comes from a different background and has many different interests, we've all joined together as one to work towards a common goal. Spending so much time together on this project has led us to believe that we cannot continue without a member. Each person is important to our group.

Now that many sports have ended their season and activities are winding down to prepare for winter break, we've extended our meeting so that we can accomplish much more. We now meet Thursdays from 3-7pm and Saturdays from 10am-3pm. As a team we've managed to commit to this schedule quite well.

Some members feel that they must be assigned to a task during meetings. We plan to have even more specific roles for each member so that no one feels that unable to help out. This will cause us to take more initiative and keep ourselves busy.

Although we all enjoy eachother's company and feel that our time spent together has made us all comfortable with one another, we are planning a "team bonding" day. We're considering laser tag as our event. Teachers and mentors must also participate!