2016 Ambassador: Peter Chou

2016 Ambassador: Peter Chou

Peter Chou
Shorewood High School
Shoreline, WA
Author of Nitrite: an Important Ion

Future career goals

I enjoy all subjects, especially those related to STEM. I am looking towards pursuing a career in the engineering field with a focus on the life sciences, i.e. environmental or biomedical engineering.

Description of school

Shorewood is a diverse public school of about 1,500 students in a suburban area. A new state-of-the-art campus opened in fall 2013. Currently all students are issued an iPad in grades 9-12 as part of basic school supplies. Classes offered which relate to this program include AP Environmental Science and regular Environmental Science.

What originally made you interested in this project?

I always had interest in the life sciences, but beyond that, during my junior year of high school a club I lead hosted an event which focused on global food security called a “Hunger Banquet.”  This was an interactive event which allowed participants (a diverse group of students at my school) to tangibly observe the extreme resource inequalities a majority of the world’s population face.  Being able to participate in PF1010’s internship over the summer fell perfectly in line with what I had been previously involved in with the Hunger Banquet; it was great being able to go even more in depth with issues of food security and global resource issues.

Why do you want to bring this project to your school/community center/organization? What are your objectives?

I believe it is incredibly important to give young people and communities in general exposure to the global food crisis at hand as well as the growing environmental issues we face.  Aquaponics/hydroponics is a perfect way to illustrate and teach this problem through an interactive and fun medium.  In addition, the flexibility of this project allows for the implementation of students’ and participants’ creative and problem-solving skills.  Taking consistent and accurate measurements are also skills which can be developed through this project; overall, this project would be an invaluable learning experience for my school and community.

Objectives would include:
– Establishing an aquaponics “club” at my school with ~5-10+ dedicated members
– Creating a sustainable and successful system which can then be used to educate the school as well as the community through community events
– Being able to utilize the food grown via aquaponics in Shorewood’s culinary arts programs
– For further advancement: adding in features such as compost from school cafeteria w/ decomposers (e.g. black soldier fly)

What current clubs are available? What teachers/courses could integrate this project? When is the deadline to start a new club, etc?

HOPE Club is the environmental club of our school; however, other community service organizations such as National Honor Society and Interact Club also similarly focus on environmental stewardship.  Unfortunately, the only viable class for this project would be AP Environmental Science because AP Biology is not offered this year.  It is my understanding that clubs can be pitched and created throughout the year, and the process is relatively straightforward.

What is your plan?

At my school, we have a daily 45-minute study period called SAS.  I am planning on starting a program during this study period which would allow students to work together in creating an aquaponic/hydroponic system.  The broad objective is to be able to create at least a small-scale system which can give students an opportunity to exercise creative control over an experimental system.  I would hope that all participants would get equal opportunities to implement any ideas they might have into the system.  Mariam, another PF1010 intern, attends the other school in my district, so we are planning on partnering up and possibly creating a join organization.

September – Approval for club, approval for funding, start DonorsChoose
Early October – Club Fair, recruiting members
October – preliminary planning
November – (hopefully will have club funds by this time) receiving materials & planning builds
December-January – begin building
February – begin planting
Early March – introduce fish into aquaponics system
March-May – Continue to monitor and improve system
June – Planning for summer, next year

What challenges do you think you will face in getting this set up?

One challenge I can see arising with getting this project set up is getting the necessary funding and materials. However, I can see DonorsChoose or a similar crowdfunding medium as being very successful in raising these funds.

Another challenge I can see is time commitment, not only from me but also from other prospective club members. Because I would not be able to integrate this project into an actual class period, it will be difficult to encourage members to remain dedicated to such a time-intensive project (especially in its nascent stages). Moreover, other club/extracurricular commitments and upcoming college applications would further add to this challenge.