Engineers Without Borders (EWB) is a national student-run service organization, focused on engineering solutions for those in need. A little over two years ago, Miami’s chapter completed a water supply project in Chaguarpamba, Ecuador. They are currently working on projects for communities in Uganda and Rwanda and will travel to both places in the next few months.
But more locally, they’ve collaborated with The Institute for Food at Miami University to build a movable greenhouse.
The Miami Institute for Food is located on the university’s 35-acre organic farm and experiential education center. It is just a short drive from campus and, according to Miami’s website, is a place where students, faculty, staff and community members can come together and work together toward economic sustainability.
Before the fall semester of last year, the Food Institute was looking for people to help with engineering projects. Out of the list of projects provided by the Institute, EWB chose a movable greenhouse.
“In order to extend the growing season for the farm, we’re building a movable greenhouse,” said Prasidh Arora, a second-year student and the project’s manager.
Another reason the Institute wants a movable greenhouse over a typical stationary one is that, instead of buying multiple greenhouses, a system that would make the “pre-existing” base of the greenhouse movable was much more economical, Arora said.
Because Arora is a computer engineering major, the work involved in designing the movable greenhouse was initially outside of his skill-level.
“It was a lot of asking people what to do and a lot of Googling and just learning a whole new field,” Arora said.
Arora had members of his team, like first-year student Evan Beckmeyer, to help him.
“Working on this greenhouse has been a learning process, but it’s been fun. I’d do it again,” said Beckmeyer. “I’ve been able to do a lot of SketchUp [a 3-D modeling software], trying to visualize the greenhouse as well as we can.”
While their research and the design of the greenhouse are done for now, Arora and the rest of the project team still have to go out and buy all the materials they need — estimated to cost over $1,000 — as well spend a day at the farm building the movable greenhouse. That day, however, won’t be for a couple weeks.
In the meantime, to get familiar with the farm and serve their community, Saturday morning, Feb. 18, members of EWB visited the farm to assist with planting garlic and repairing fences.
Charles Griffin, the farm’s organic and sustainable agriculture specialist, showed the EWB members around the farm.
“We had a great crop last year,” Griffin said. “But the main thing we’re trying to figure out now is how to turn these crops into processed food that the university can use. It’s something that all small farms struggle with at some point.”
Griffin admitted that the farm was in need of help. And fortunately for them, the Institute’s list of potential engineering projects is something EWB hopes to help decrease even further.
“We’ll move onto another project as soon as this ends in two or three weeks,” said Arora.