Saturday, January 22, 2011


This post is totally unrelated to Letter Writing or Book Reviews, so falls squarely in the realm of observation on life.

My students in Animal Science and Agricultural Mechanics and Carpentry classes are amazing. I have been challenging them to change the world or at least their worlds. We have been developing an aquaponics system which combines raising fish as a protein source and vegetables as, well, a vegetable food. The system is combined by using the plants to serve as a bio filter for the the water polluted with fish waste. The plants, more specifically beneficial bacteria, convert the ammonia waste into nitrogen that fertilizes the plants and the water is returned to the fish tank, cleaner and oxygenated.

The conversations and research have been amazing. This week I challenged the students to come up with a way to heat the water and potentially a greenhouse using only what was in the system. We think there is a way to separate hydrogen from the ammonia (NH3) and generate some electricity with it while still having the nitrogen available to fertilize the plants.

Have any of you done anything with hydrogen generation? I would love your insights.

I can tell you this about my small-town students. Their vocabulary has taken a quantum leap when we started this conversation. They are amazing young people. It has been so exciting. Yesterday, 5 students in Animal Science were researching this very thing. These are not my most "stay on task" students. They popped away from the computer and came and told me that they had to make a hydrogen generating machine. So I swallowed hard and told them to go to the shop and see what they could come up with. Within 5 minutes, they were generating hydrogen gas from simple tap water and table salt and a little bit of electricity! I got so excited, I ran down the hall and grabbed the principal and counselor and told them, "You have got to see this!" They were as amazed as the kids were!

I love it when self-directed learning takes off!