Robotics teacher Brian Patton and Biology teacher Pascal Lanciano will introduce a new robotics class focused on farming. The interdisciplinary class combines standard robotics and biology principles into a unique program of study. “This new class, based in plant biology and automated farming could open the possibility for more flexibility and options for students,” says Brian. “Students can personalize their projects and coursework to best suit their interests.” In future semesters, the class will center on aquaponics, systems that couple aquaculture (raising aquatic animals) with hydroponics (cultivating plants in water).
The plan is to start with a FarmBot, an open-source farming machine. This machine is accompanied by a curriculum based on its software, which grants students the ability to design their own modifications and improvements to the device. Ultimately, Brian expects students would work towards building a robot of their own.
Focusing on farming and local sourcing would help students learn the importance of sustainable food production. Following George School’s commitment to faithful stewardship of the earth, students could actively work to reduce their carbon footprint by developing new methods of farming that replace “trucking” and the outsourcing of groceries, two major players in greenhouse gas emissions.
Farming is a topic “so fundamental but so far removed from the daily subconscious,” Brian shares. “We have to do better on every front.”
These lessons will teach students how to sustain themselves and support their surrounding community so they can thrive locally and globally, another core value of George School. In terms of career paths, Brian believes thinking sustainably can also be a strong business opportunity for young entrepreneurs. As society looks for smaller farming alternatives to decrease global CO2 consumption, students could apply the skills learned in the classroom to create real-world change.
This would not be the first time George School students have incorporated elements of biological sciences into the robotics classroom. In his independent study project, Andrew Rogers ’23 seamlessly crossed both academic disciplines with a fully-functioning terrarium. His work is a prime example of the school’s core value of transformative teaching and learning.
This is all possible with the new George School Signature Academic Program with a modular 7-Term calendar beginning in the 2022-2023 school year. With this new schedule, Brian says, the curriculum can easily cross various academic subjects and allow greater time to access other aspects of George School’s expansive campus like the Energy Center.