by Heather Lister, @heathermlister
About the Author: Heather Lister, M.Ed is a STEM/CS Teacher and School Librarian in the Camp Hill School District in Camp Hill, PA. She is also a STEM Education Specialist with Fluxspace, bringing high-quality, hands-on learning to educators around the world.
April 8, 2022
I was lucky enough to get to try out the brand new Phidgets Plant Kit. In less than 20 minutes, I had set up an automatic waterer with high hopes that *for once*, I might be able to keep a plant alive. (Fingers crossed)
Nearly a year ago, I took advantage of a free “Getting Started Kit” from Phidgets that I saw mentioned in CSTA’s newsletter. After all, it checked all of the boxes for what I look for in a product (versatility, scalability, affordable). But what really interested me in Phidgets was that, although I hadn’t heard of them, they certainly weren’t new. Phidgets are used by thousands of companies around the world for everything from interactive galleries to coffee roasters. You can view loads of examples here. There are hundreds of Phidgets available for sensing, automation, and more. As much as I love the other products in our STEM Lab, I would venture a guess that about 80% of them aren’t products or tools that they’ll see in the field. With Phidgets being so popular in the field, and the ability to be used with multiple programming languages, make them a great real-world tool for me and my students.
Getting the Plant Kit up and running was really simple thanks to the step-by-step tutorial. There are lots of opportunities throughout the project to use the sensors to do various experiments relating to moisture and light beyond what is included in the tutorial.
Compare which types of soil retain moisture for the longest amount of time. Use the light sensor to determine the best placement for your potted plant. If you’re planting something in the ground (instead of a potted plant), you could use the moisture sensor to determine what area has the most ground moisture. Students could chart this data and use it to make informed decisions based on the needs of various plantlife. Lots of opportunities!
At Fluxspace, we’ve been doing a lot of work with hydroponics. Several of the schools we support use the Flex Farm system from Fork Farms. It’s a great system with lots of potential for integrated learning connections - including ones in computer science. While I’ve been exploring other plant/soil kits on the market, several of the reviews noted that the sensor would corrode quickly and need replacing. Since we were using ours in a very wet environment, corroding quickly wasn’t really an option. After speaking with the team at Phidgets, I learned that their sensors are capacitive, so we’ll get much more accurate readings and a longer lifetime than other options. Not to mention it’s cheaper. You can snag yourself a kit for $25. I can’t remember the last time I purchased something for my STEM Lab at that price!