2017 Spring Semester: Food Computing in Education - Beta-Test


hi @wsnook - you’re a rock star, thank you. a triage team from the lab is headed out to help wrap things up (this beta test is also a ‘test’ of how to get our community folks engaged in PFCs in education - i’m so glad you’re on this thread!)

@MrsHesseltine - @spaghet & @AlexLim may hop on here to try help from afar.

Y’all are going like GANGBUSTERS in the home stretch! Great job!


I either haven’t been aware of that problem or it’s unique to that bot.
I’ll check on it tomorrow.

@jake is Jake. I have a feeling he’s not as active anymore though.

Regarding @MrsHesseltine 's concern on instruction 32:

Connect Molex JR 3-Pos Recepticles with "K8@1" and "K8@2" Labels,
Spliced together with "K8-NC" and "K8-NO" labelled leads (WIR-HAR-0014)
K8@1 black wire to GND Bus 1, Terminal 8,
K8@2 black wire to GND Bus 2, Terminal 7,
red wire labelled "K8-NC" to Relay Block K8-NC,
+ **red wire labelled "K8-NO" to Relay Block K8-NO**,
red wire labelled "K8-COM" to Relay Block K8-COM

I think this could definitely be phrased better, although all 3 ports on the relay should be used for K8 so maybe the diff above will suffice?


Ok - thank you @spaghet @hildreth @wsnook!


May 17, 2017

       We are back and running with the food computer. We are figuring out how to adjust the pH, temperature, lights, nutrients, and other settings. We are growing lettuce. Things seem to be working fine, and we are all exited to see how it will work.


How did your seedlings do? I ordered the warming mat and greenhouse tray from Amazon, set it up with lettuce seeds, and nothing grew! Any suggestions? We also haven’t been able to connect because of the school’s firewall - I’m getting nervous it will be a no-go!



Hi Tracy! We were having some connectivity issues earlier this week, but were able to work through them with our IT department. We planted our seedlings into the food computer today. They look a little sad, so we are hoping that they perk up a bit in the next few days! We kept a pretty close watch on the dashboard today to make sure that the climate recipe stayed consistent - pH dropped a bit during the day and the nutrient level was a bit high. We tried adjusting the pH and nutrients using the toggle switches on the dashboard, but it didn’t seem responsive. We will keep working with it tomorrow.

We hope you are able to work out your issues as well! Here are some pics from today…



Hello, I’m curious what caused your connectivity issues. I am setting up our V2 at a public makerspace and concerned about connectivity myself. I feel as though anyone building this in a school, or public space will also face problems with firewalls, etc. I would appreciate hearing your experience. Definitely a future hurdle.

Edit: just saw @tracyp post as well about firewalls, were you able to resolve this?

P.S. Let me know if you’re still having trouble with seedlings and I can give you some pointers on germination.


I got the seedlings going the second time around, but we haven’t figured
out the firewall issue yet. I’ll keep you posted.



Hello @Webb.Peter! We think that our connectivity issues were related to the location of the PFC in a classroom that had limited wifi access. We moved the PFC to another location, and that seemed to solve the problem. We have been quite fortunate, as our IT department has been really responsive and helpful with this project. Our seedlings have been in the machine now for about 10 days and students have been tracking their growth. Our biggest hurdle right now is keeping the nutrients and pH at the right levels for growing lettuce. We will try to post a bit more often…I hope some of this information helps! Let us know if you have any other questions.


Are you not utilizing the automated dosing pumps? If you’re really having trouble using the pumps/sensors to automate reservoir control you can also order handheld meters to double check readings. If you are using them and still having trouble, I’d be very curious to help investigate the root cause of the error.

I am still trying to get my PFC V2 “up and running” I’ve tried to use several images from OpenAg as well as a full install from scratch and still am not functioning. I’m curious what guide you followed when first starting the food computer to install the software, were you able to utilize the SD card it came with, or did OpenAg come in and set it up for you?

I appreciate your feedback!


Hi…i am a new user here. As per my knowledge this is the Sustainable Horticulture Classes of 2018 and 2020 at Essex Tech. While working on the Personal Food Computer there have been some slight issues that we feel should be addressed. To start, we have 8 students assisted by our 2 teachers working to complete this project. As a group, we have very little knowledge of the wiring that needs to be done but have other resources to call if we need any backup.

prototype pcb assembly



After deep dive into the PFC, I convinced possibility of the education project using PFC. So, I prepared PFC education program to educate student about the engineering/environment/agriculture in S.Korea. I searched some project which using PFC to educate the student.

Below 3 project is the result of my research till now.

  1. Foam Farm Activity.

  2. National Geographic Expeditions “Engineering and Robotics on the MIT Campus” program.

  3. GBE(Growing Beyond Earth)

Foam Farm Acitivity is very detail guide about the instruction assembling hardware and they opened arduino code. Also, GBE project has a detail guide how to assembling “Lab” which similar system of PFC.

But, I couldn’t find to detail guide to eduate student using PFC. I hope that someone who have a experience what educate student using PFC or have a plan to this.

If you have interest about this education project or plan, Just tell me!

Thank you!


HI MrsHesseltine,

I encountered the same issue as you report above regarding the signal board underside coming into contact with metallic components of the Arduino board. I put electrical tape on the underside of the signal board to prevent electrical shorts. You can also snip the leads of the BNC connectors on the underside of the signal board to prevent them from poking through the electrical tape and shorting to to the Arduino.



@house This is great! We have precisely the same vision and are following very similar groups. Please let me know your timeline/path forward with developing curriculum. I’d love to further facilitate conversation/collaboration around this topic on the forums. Let me know your goals, and how you think we could maybe work together on this more. I will be releasing an outline, and Chapter 1 of curriculum we are developing for commercial kit version of MVP (MARSfarm) within a few weeks.

@thiemehennis Is doing a very similar project called AstroPlant.

@ATBFarms is using V2 Food Computer for higher education.

@melanieshimano is using foam farms in schools already (follow her Twitter, she’s a rockstar: https://twitter.com/melanieshimano?ref_src=twsrc^google|twcamp^serp|twgr^author).

@pspeth @SuzieSchmitt (using MVP) Are also working on curriculum as well I know.

Some other random resources:

Kimbal Musks’s “Big Green” (formerly Kitchen Community/Learning Gardens): https://biggreen.org/teaching-in-your-garden/curriculum/

Green Bronx Machine: https://greenbronxmachine.org/resources/

You mentioned GBE (Growing Beyond Earth) by Fairchild Foundation. This is the best URL to see their content, seriously, this is a GOLD MINE: http://www.fairchildgarden.org/Portals/0/docs/Education/Challenge/2016/Resources/ICES_252_2015.pdf?ver=2015-09-03-120017-130

Here’s my question: Up until now Food Computers have been a DIY/Maker project. Therefore the emphasis of the education was on STEM skills. That being said, when I look at programs like the Green Bronx Machine (if you haven’t watched his TED talks you need to) or Big Green I see that the emphasis of the education is on the FOOD. Food Computers are arguably one of the least efficient ways to produce food, as the point in time, that being said, they’re a great way to teach CEA/STEM skills.

What does a food computer intended for education look like in a school? Does it need to be larger so everyone in the school can participate (Food Server) and actually receive food from it? These are the questions that keep me up at night…

Growing Plants in Space - MARSfarm Curriculum

shouldn’t we have some kind of wiki to develop or aggregate relevant and
engaging educational resources?

I’m going to start an open pedagogy approach at The International SChool of
The Hague - students and teachers and external experts and volunteers will
be responsible in developing a compendium or course or other relevant
educational content or projects and share that openly. So I provide the
open pedagogy framework and some tools, and they will work with it to
develop useful content that can be used by others. Will share updates along
the way (starting from about 1 month from now).


hi everyone - thanks for continuing the conversation about incorporating OpenAg (or elements of the project) into the education context - it’s one the @openag and @OpenAgFoundation teams are excited about.

At the Media Lab, the OpenAg EDU project, is looking at what impacts Personal Food Computers (PFCs) might have on specific transformational learning and health behavior outcomes in various education contexts (classrooms, museums, libraries). We’ll continue to discuss and share what we’re learning as research results come in.

In the meantime, there’s some really fantastic educators out there using FC’s and creating their own materials for various education settings.

@thiemehennis - GREAT idea to compile EDU resources on one wiki page.

I’ve built one on the OpenAg Wiki, so that nerdfarmer educators like yourself, @MrsHesseltine, @melanieshimano, @house and others can contribute any documentation - lessons, materials, curricula, pedagogy - as you develop and/or find it:

OpenAg EDU Wiki page: https://wiki.openag.media.mit.edu/education

I’ve also started a forum category to collect more threads in one place for educators: http://forum.openag.media.mit.edu/c/education

Looking forward to the discussion!


useful! thanks. will also make my edu-contributions when we can.


I recently posted this in response to another educator about curriculum guidelines and thought that it might be helpful for you (and anyone else following this thread!).