Academy X Spitballs Solutions for World Hunger

Amanda Young, Staff Writer

New to the campus club scene this year, Academy X encourages students to use math and science skills to develop creative solutions to real-world problems. Math teacher Nita Madra and biology teacher Rene Gillibert currently serve as advisers for the club.

Sophomore club president Armman Jorhal explained, “It’s basically a design competition and a prototype competition to solve different world problems.”

According to Jorhal, each project must be a “scalable prototype.” This year’s club challenge is to address the world food crisis, so the teams in the club are focusing on creating an autonomous growing box that “uses different components such as hydroponics or aeroponics, indoor lighting, indoor environment control, programming electrical systems, and all that stuff combined to design something that could be scaled up to solve the world food crisis,” Jorhal said.

“I think my favorite part of the club is being able to combine these concepts that we learn in school, like math and science and chemistry, and apply them to real life, and especially to real world problems,” said senior Regina Kong. “The club started because we were looking for a solution for food insecurity. I think a lot of these really big issues, they’re hard to visualize, but once you’re able to use your knowledge and what you’ve learned in school to approach those problems, that is just really, really exciting.”

While the idea for the club came in the summer of 2017, funding for its activities has only recently been obtained.

The types of prototypes created by the club members “ultimately depends on the school’s funding and how much they give towards the club,” Jorhal explained. “If we get a lot then we’ll do a full prototype, although it’s a little late for that, so we’ll probably start that kind of solution next semester.”

“It [also] depends on what the groups want to do because the groups can pick any part of the project that they want to recreate or add to in the prototype form after they create the design. Just for the competition, so, ‘This is our design, and this is also a working prototype of a piece of what we are building or designing,” added Jorhal.

The process requires steps of creative ingenuity, calculations, and efficient resourcing.

“We give some baselines and guidance; we show what we created so you have something to base it off of or something to keep in mind. You always want to start with the structure and what you want to do inside of that,” said Jorhal. “After you create the design, then you have to find the materials that go into the design and all the energy calculations- how efficient is it, how much water does it use? – all that kind of stuff. So it’s the design first, then the building materials, then the calculations.”

“We’re doing an autonomous growth system, so we’re growing strawberries without any human interaction,” explained freshman Jake Todd.

Freshman Cooper Schnurr, a member of the Academy X club in the same group as Todd, explained his prototype’s goal is to “make it as efficient as possible and since it has to work year round, we’d like to use not only gravity to stack [the boxes]; we are trying to have it flow down through the plant and still have the same amount of nutrients from the top plant to the bottom plant. ”

Schnurr said that he enjoys the club because “it’s definitely something new and is different from other science programs that [he has] done.”

“It really teaches teamwork and you get to do hands-on work on the project that’s kind of your own creation,” added Todd.

“I’ve never really participated in any STEM clubs before. It was definitely a new experience for me, especially learning how to code and robotics and engineering, all that stuff, I’ve never really done it before. But I thought it would really be something incredible to be part of, and I’m happy that I did,” said Kong.

The club currently has approximately a dozen members, though Jorhal said that they are always looking to include more students.