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Putnam students create hydroponics project during summer program

Date: 8/6/2015

SPRINGFIELD – Keondra Goldsberry and Nahiomy Martinez were not interested in the possibilities of hydroponics, but they are now.

The two Putnam Vocational and Technical Academy students were among a group of 22 students who participated in this summer’s 21st Century Summer Program.

They presented their project to family and friends in a program conducted at TechSpring, the Baystate Health Innovation Center, on July 30.

Manuel Mantilla II, the coordinator for the program this is part of the Baystate Springfield Educational Partnership, explained the class was designed to “take them out of their comfort zones.” Only two of the students were in the school’s horticulture program.

This is the fifth summer the six-week class has been offered and Mantilla said it exposed students to not only to science, but math and English language arts. He added that although the students may have declared a major, the program is designed to have young people consider the sciences.

Goldsberry and Martinez explained their task this summer was to study hydroponics and to successfully build self-contained growing environment. They showed how a section of plastic pipe supported several clumps of rock wool in which lettuce seeds had sprouted. The seed received necessary nutrients from a pumping system that bring enriched water from a sealed bucket. The water that is not used is retuned to the bucket.

Goldsberry called the system “eco-friendly” and added hydroponics would benefit a community such as Springfield as plants would grow around the year.

Martinez said the project was “very exciting.”

Goldsberry, who is studying cosmetology, said she could see using such technology to grow avocados and cucumbers in a salon.