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High school students design and build 'Farm Bots'

Posted at 6:50 PM, May 21, 2018
and last updated 2018-05-22 07:59:36-04

Imagine having a garden, but not having to do much of the work to take care of it. Thanks to some determined and innovative high school students in Estero, that may be possible someday soon.

Engineering students at Estero High School just finished a project this week that's been two years in the making - to design and build some high-tech equipment that could change the way we grow our food. The students have created two "farm bots" - machines that can plant seeds, water the plants, and even remove weeds.

Juniors Tom Malestein and Max Schad each put over a hundred hours in designing and constructing the farm bots, which consists of a moveable frame and apparatus set over a bed of soil. The farm bots can be programed to sow the soil, check moisture levels, irrigate and destroy any weeds. 

Schad and Malestein fabricated some of the parts with a 3-D printer.

"That's the basis of engineering," Malestein said. "You just keep improving and improving."

"It's a great way of portraying the synthesis of technology and agriculture," Schad said.

Teacher Stephen Fisher planted the idea for the farm bots in his students' minds.

"Seeing the persistence of where my kids are with problem-solving, and taking those ideas and seeing some real results at this point, has been fascinating," Fisher said.

While the project is already considered a success, Schad says he isn't done.

"With my next school year, I want to focus on building a rainwater collection system for (the farm bots," he said.

He said the farm bots would be ideal for rooftop gardens in cities. The herbs and vegetables being grown by the farm bots - such as red chili peppers, sweet potatos and rosemary - will be used by Estero High School's culinary arts program.