Calling all Educators! Who's using Food Computers in schools?


Hi all - checking in to find the teachers, educators, & classrooms amongst our #nerdfarmers!

We’d like to get an Education-specific thread going to get folks in one place who might have questions or updates specific to building a PFC in the classroom.

We’re getting some details together for our next education initiative, so I’d love for this thread to be a starting point to chat more! cheers!



I’m a teacher following the progress of the Food Computer project. I haven’t implemented anything in the classroom but am awaiting the release of the new version of the Food Computer. As it stands, it looks a little beyond my financial/skill/time resources.

I see a lot of potential for this project in schools as it aligns perfectly with the maker/STEM movement. It also fulfills a desire for projects to be focused around real world problems associated with sustainability and social responsibility.



Hello everyone!
I am in the process of founding a small nonprofit called Workshop Garden Technologies, aiming to share the OpenAg technology with nearby students to foster their love for technology and agriculture. We are currently, for example, talking with a local educational farm to share the technology with classes of middle and high-school students.
We’re wrapping up construction of our PFC unit, and its looking great! We can’t wait to share your technology with the world.

Follow us on Twitter and Facebook to see our progress!
@workshopgarden &


Our school will be building a food server this year for our cross-curricular project across multiple grades (computer science, engineering, biology, chemistry, earth science, humanities, math - the list goes on and on!) . Aside from the classroom specific learnings, we want to use it to grow food (fruit and veggies) that we eat for lunch, and as a platform for student research.

Our plan is to build the food computer this fall as a prototype, then build from there and start working on the server in the winter. Can’t wait for the 2.0 info to be published so we can start ordering materials for the start of the school year. We have found lots of information about the PFC, but was wondering where I could get more info on the server or if there’s anyone we could talk to? Don’t want to repeat the same mistakes you’ve made.

We haven’t figured out where we’ll be posting our progress, but I’ll update it here when we do.

We can’t wait to get started!


Hey Juliana - Hildreth from OpenAg here…we can’t wait to hear more about your PFC build this fall!

We’re in the early stages of getting four Food Servers online at our new facility off-campus. They should be kitted out and experiments running in the next 6 weeks or so. As with the PFC, we’ll continue to share details, code, specs, etc. on Github as they become available. As you can see from our Twitter activity and forum posts, the OpenAg team is super-focused on getting this beta 1.1 version of the PFC out soon! Then we’ll go full-throttle into the Food Server scale!

Stay tuned - and please share with the group how your PFC build and prep for food server turns out!


Hi Hildreth,
How exciting! I’ll definitely keep you posted. We start school next week and work on the project will start in about a month when the kids are all settled into the new routine. I’ll be in touch soon!


Can you tell me more about the food server. Too exciting. Are they a new design.


It’s a bigger version of the food computer. There’s a description on this page.


I’m a community college instructor in computer science and I am currently building a food computer with another faculty member and some students. Our PFC should be done in the next few weeks.


Hi Hildreth,

I’m a freelance journalist, and among the things I write is an education technology column for a nonprofit newsroom called the Hechinger Report. This column is almost always reposted on Slate.

I think educators using food computers and food servers in schools would be a great topic for my September column. I understand via Alexandra Kahn at the MediaLab that you guys have a formal education initiative in the works that may not quite be off the ground. But, it also seems like some students and teachers are taking this up informally as well…and that kind of seems in keeping with the project. I’d love to talk with you, as well as any interested educators. Please let me know, if you’re game. The column deadline is next Friday, and so I hope to have my reporting in place by the middle of next week.

With thanks,


Hi Hildreth,

I’m a middle and high school teacher in Arkansas and heard about this project through a TED talk I shared with my students. They were very interested in the project and many of them came to me after class asking if it would be possible to get a PFC on our campus! I was wondering if that would be a possibility in the near future and, if so, what that process would look like. Our school is a 1:1 technology school and many of our students engage in programming, design, and other such pursuits. I would love to bring a crossover of this, science, engineering, sustainability, and agriculture. Right now we don’t have the facilities to build one of our own, but we may in the near future. In the meantime is there anything we could do to host a PFC? If not, I look forward to the 2.0 to be put out so that we can build one and join in the effort.

Thank you,



Hi Hildreth,

We finished building the PFC. We learned a lot from it and like any maker-type project, encountered things we needed to troubleshoot, both in the physical build and with the program - but it’s great!! Our kids started working on the food server today. We’ve divided the work so that our 4th/5th graders are building the enclosure, which should be done by the time we break for winter break, our 6th graders will build the shelving units and the 7th/8th graders will work on the plumbing, etc. The 7th/8th graders will work on the computing part of it in Computer Science.

Here are pics from today (we posted these on our FB page)…

And the completed PFC:


This is great, Juliana - congrats - We are impressed!! Please keep us posted on how it turns out!


Hello all -

It’s so exciting to see all this interest in integrating Food Computers into education!

Here’s a quick update for you, our #nerdfarmer educators…

Food Servers & v2.0 Personal Food Computer (alpha)

For folks who’ve asked about Food Servers (the shipping container-sized Food Computer), OpenAg is getting four Food Servers online and experiments started at our new off-site facility. It should be very exciting.

For the moment, our focus for Food Computers in education is on Personal Food Computers (the small units), and we’re testing a very few v2.0 Personal Food Computers (alpha) now to finalize the software, hardware, and user interface design before moving full-throttle into a larger education pilot.

Personal Food Computers in Schools
For the educators on this thread who’ve asked: please know our tiny research team at the Media Lab would love to get a Personal Food Computer to each and every educator who’s asked. We really would, and…we’re working on it. More soon.

In the meantime, I want to encourage you all to check out our updated OpenAg wiki for the latest on the Personal Food Computer, and learn more about how to build your very own. Tell us what works! Tell us what needs improvement!

Foam Farm Activity
This summer, OpenAg created a 3-day ‘hackathon’-style build for National Geographic Student Expeditions participants this summer. We called it a Foam Farm!

You can find the Foam Farm activity on our GitHub, here:

If you’re eager to get started, feel like a PFC might be a little too advanced/involved, or want to get students familiar with some of the basic concepts behind Food Computers, this might be a good place to start.

Thank you

Thank you for being part of our community, and thanks for your patience as we continue to develop the technology to grow the next generation of farmers! Our commitment to being an open source project is so that anyone can contribute. We’re excited to co-create Personal Food Computers with you and your students. Please stay tuned, and enjoy exploring, hacking, modifying, critiquing, suggesting and refining what it means to do food computing, together!


Definitely! They’re working on the easy part right now, and I’m looking forward to see what happens when they get to the really difficult parts of the design and build. :slight_smile:

On a related note, a number of our students (8-10 kids) will be traveling to MIT for the MIT Spark weekend (3/11-12) and I was wondering if you or someone from the OpenAg team would be available to meet with them on Friday, 3/10 for about 1 hour? We can be flexible on time, as families are all making travel arrangements now.

We work hard to make learning experiences authentic, and they’d be over the moon to get a chance to present what they’ve built, the challenges they’ve encountered, and what they’ve learned to the creators of the tech. We could record it to share with other educators

Thank you so much,


Hi Hildreth,

I teach “imagineering” at Chiaravalle Montessori Middle School here in Evanston, IL. This year we are hoping to build a Personal Food Computer. I’ll share posts as we go and probably craft a Build Diary here too.

We’re currently planning on building PFC 1.1 as 2.0 doesn’t appear to have the details listed and a complete BOM. I see that 1.1 will upgrade to 2.0 which is great. I look forward to hearing your updates.




Although I am not technically an educator (I am a student), I am working with a team of teachers and classmates to build a food computer. Our aim is to use the device across multiple disciplines, particularly biology, and integrate it into our design class in which we work with a variety of technologies including 3D printers and laser cutters. However, as we are a small school in Canada where programming is not taught is a school subject, we cannot find anyone with sufficient coding knowledge to facilitate our project. Does anyone have suggestions as to how we could learn to code or program the food computer otherwise?
All help is much appreciated.


Hey Cole - happy 2017! I’m glad to hear you and your team are joining the ranks of our #nerdfarmers!

If you haven’t already, I think you’ll get some great responses to your question by posting it as a new (general) thread to the forum - there’s a lot of folks that can help point you in the right direction.

FWIW, the PFC runs on Arduino and Raspberry Pi, which have robust communities and tools for learning the basics of programming/coding in their own right. Looping in @gordonb & @Eddie, too, in case they have some specific suggestions for getting started with those software stacks in relation to the PFC software.

Hope this helps a bit to get you going…Let us all know how it turns out!



Hi all!

I’m piloting a high school biotechnology course using Food Computers in a Baltimore City charter high school starting this month!

We’ll build a Food Computer in the class, compare the produce with other farming methods, and learn how STEM/farming/food systems can help the students excel in their future careers and problem-solve within their communities.

How are other people incorporating the Food Computer into their existing curriculum? Do you typically use the Food Computer as an after-school/extra-curricular club, incorporate it into a science block, or do something else entirely?




our team is studying food growing and we are planning to use Food Computer to collect data about optimal growing conditions, water circulation and of course to control the environment in the chamber. We are aiming to finish our student project later this spring.

Greetings from snowy Finland!