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Women In Defense donation lands FarmBot at Madison elementary

MADISON – A donation from the local chapter of Women In Defense will fund an innovative machine for the outdoor classroom at Madison Elementary School.

Debbie Fraley, STEM director for the Tennessee chapter of Women In Defense, presented the $4,100 donation. Madison elementary leaders will buy the FarmBot Genesis, an autonomous machine placed in a raised garden bed.

The FarmBot Genesis can perform the entire gardening process, including planting seeds, watering each plant on a set schedule, monitoring conditions and removing weeds, Gifted Specialist Beth Woodard said.

“We are planning to have FarmBot up and running this spring,” Woodard said. “The FarmBot will be available for use to all teachers and students. Fourth- and fifth-grade classes will spend the most time using it.”

“We are very excited about the coding and technology opportunities that the FarmBot is going to add to the learning experiences students already have in our outdoor classroom stations,” Woodard said.

The FarmBot’s journey to Madison Elementary began about three years ago when Woodard and Library Media Specialist Bonnie Howard saw an article online. Since that time, Woodard and Howard have been looking for a funding source.

An engineering professor at the University of Alabama in Huntsville connected the school with Deborah Fraley with Women In Defense. “They generously offered to fund the full project for us,” Woodard said.

Teachers and students can use FarmBot to merge both science and technology standards in hands-on STEM lessons, Woodard said. “The FarmBot will be installed in our current outdoor classroom in our courtyard area (and) will simply be an additional phase.”

A web app controls the Internet-connected FarmBot. “Students will use the app to plan and monitor the garden while picking up coding, programming and other technology skills,” Woodard said.

“Genesis is a fully open-source project so coders and engineers can easily modify it and build their own parts,” Woodard said. Students can design and create additional components with a 3D printer, along with tweaking code in the software to add features.

For more information, visit womenindefense.net/chapters/chapters.

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