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Robo-garden rises at Demko school

School gains $3,500 grant for SMART garden project.
1906 EnviroFile 3439 km
WHERE'S THE TOMATO DETECTOR? — Joseph M. Demko teachers Marie Jahner (left) and Laura Banu examined some of the sensors that were used in the school's SMART Garden project in June. (The components came in the box shown below.) The garden is meant to help students learn about energy efficiency in agriculture. KEVIN MA/St. Albert Gazette

Joseph M. Demko students have received a $3,500 grant to build a solar-powered, computer-controlled indoor garden.  

Inside Education announced the winners of its annual A+ for Energy grants earlier in June. The grants give Alberta schools up to $5,000 to fund project-based learning initiatives that inspire students to think about energy.   

This year’s grants saw some $120,000 distributed to 27 schools to fund tiny homes, bike-powered generators, wind turbines, solar panels, and other projects.  

Joseph M. Demko School got $3,493 for its SMART Garden project.   

St. Albert students live in a northern climate and can’t grow many crops during the winter without the use of a greenhouse, said project co-lead and teacher Marie Jahner. This project aims to help students find ways to make greenhouses more energy efficient and produce locally-grown food, reducing the carbon footprint of what they eat.  

Jahner said the grant would fund the purchase of sensors, solar panels, and programmable microcomputers called Micro Bits. This fall, Demko students will learn to program the Micro Bits to run light, moisture, and CO2 sensors that will control the heat lamps and irrigation systems for a bookshelf-sized indoor garden on wheels, allowing students to control the garden’s energy use. The garden can be used to start slow-growing plants such as pumpkins to overwinter for transplant outside come spring. Students will also visit a commercial greenhouse to lean how the greenhouse industry saves energy as part of this project.  

Jahner said she hopes to have the garden up and running by early next year.  

Visit for details on the grant.

Kevin Ma

About the Author: Kevin Ma

Kevin Ma joined the St. Albert Gazette in 2006. He writes about Sturgeon County, education, the environment, agriculture, science and aboriginal affairs. He also contributes features, photographs and video.
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