Week 4 Report

Jake, Jien Nee, William, Marissa, Joe, Sean, Robyn,Emily, Prof. Winkler and Prof. McMullen

Several of the NSG group met on Friday from 2:30 to 5:30pm in our project construction space (Discovery Learning and Research Center, Room 104).  During that time, we conducted a safety training, got to know the space, each other and our tools by building a project table (photos coming soon).  When the table was complete, we gathered together for discussion and updates on the project.  Here some highlights of that discussion:

1.  We agreed to use MDO board for the construction of our planter box.  The board has a smooth even light cardboard-colored surface and is suitable for outdoor use.  We still intend to add a couple of coats of varnish in order to make it even more weatherproof.  We also decided that the plastic liner suggestion from a previous meeting would be good to incorporate as a safety precaution to prevent any chemicals leaching from the wood into the soil.  We came up with a solution for securing the plastic in a way that will also look finished and keep the edges of the plastic secure.

mdo_board_image_fitted Approximate color of MDO board.

2.  Marissa did some research on wood joints (see her blog posting), which she shared and we discussed in relation to the wood type and size that we will be using.

3.  Profs. McMullen and Winkler shared the results of a conversation with the Lilly greenhouse managers Ron Steiner and Deb Lubelski.   First, Ron and Deb helped them  determine that it would be possible to plant an edamame variety of soybean (Midori Giant) that is adapted to this climate zone.

Second, given the possibility of freezing temperatures at the beginning of March (the primary challenge for our soybean plants) and the timing of spring break, we have decided to push back the placement of the planter box and transplanting the soybean plants to the week following spring break (March 18-23).  Still, once the soybean plants are in the box, we will need to monitor the weather closely and respond accordingly by either covering or uncovering them.  During the very vulnerable few days after being transplanted, we also need to really watch the moisture level in the soil as well.  Waiting until after spring break, will ensure that we will have enough people around to help with this transition.

5.  Based on conversations with plant experts, we have determined that we will need to build covered tunnel hoops for the soybean plants, that can be attached to the planter box.  The tunnels will act as a kind of greenhouse for the plants, protecting them from the cold when needed — especially at night.  As a group, we discussed design challenges and possibilities for building the hoops.  Johnny Seeds has an introductory video on tunnel hoops that is helpful to view.  Johnny Seeds also has components available for building the tunnels, so that we can see what is recommended, create a price quote and then compare this to what we might be able to source locally.  Additionally, Profs. Winkler and McMullen will try to arrange for a tour of some high tunnels on campus built and used by the Purdue Student Farmers.  The Student Farmers could share their experiences with building and sourcing materials.

6.  Seeds and inoculant have been ordered and are on their way.  We are planning to plant early next week.

7.  When the construction group next meets on Friday, we will work on sizing the solar cell for the solar tower.