More than 100 engineering students have started building the first sides of the greenhouses that will be placed at five nearby, underprivileged public schools next semester.
One section of the introductory class Engineering 100 is working with the nonprofit organization Growing Hope to provide inexpensive greenhouses that are needed for public gardens and for educational purposes in the Ypsilanti area, said University research scientist Lorelle Meadows, who oversees the class with Technical Communications lecturer Pauline Khan.
The class spent the first months of the term designing greenhouses. In groups of five, students came up with their own building structure, heating system, plant-watering system and methods of ventilation. Each group presented its individual plan to the rest of the groups, and in the end the class selected the best five that are now being built, Meadows said.
“(We thought) it would be really nice if students could use their talents to benefit a local organization,” Meadows said, “I’m really excited to see them so motivated.”
Recognizing students’ motivation, the Dow Foundation — a charitable and educational trust established in memory of the founder of Midland-based Dow Chemical Co. — donated $3,000 to the class. The donation allowed the students to buy high-tech, polycarbonate sheeting — hard to break polymer glass — for the outer structure of the greenhouses. Without the donation, the students would have had to build the houses with flimsier plastic sheeting. In addition to donations, the program receives financial support from the undergraduate Engineering department.
Engineering junior student Tim Wagner is a volunteer mentor for five of the groups that are working on a greenhouse for the New Directions Alternative School in Ypsilanti.
“I think it’s pretty cool that students get to do something that will affect the community,” Wagner said.
The students in the class said they are excited to help the community while learning how to apply their engineering skills. Engineering freshman Shirleen Jouw said she does not mind the hard work because the greenhouses can be used to help the schools to grow food for the community and to educate students on science.
The outer walls, which are currently being built on North Campus, will be finished Friday. The walls will be on display near the Duderstadt Center and the more innovative models that the class did not select will also be shown. The information on the schools that will receive the greenhouses will also be on display.
After the reception the walls will come down until next semester, when the class can order the supplies needed to finally complete the greenhouses.
Meadows said she estimates the class will complete them by March. Once completed, the houses will be assembled at East Middle School, West Middle School, Willow Run Middle School, Ypsilanti Head Start Preschool and New Directions Alternative School.