Students designed and built a custom Aquaponics system

Grantee: The Ella Baker School – New York, New York
Project Title: Robo Ponic Kids

“My first apartment in New York City was 350 square feet, so I’ve always been interested in “creating space.” If I teach students to create a space that also purifies water and brings food to the table in a low-income neighborhood, I make math real for 7th and 8th grade students. So that’s what I’m exploring with my Captain Planet grant.

I’m fortunate to work in a progressive school where teachers are given guided freedom to develop our own responsible curriculum.”
– Michael Paoli – Grant Project Leader, 7th/8th grade math and science teacher

Description:  Mr. Paoli did research that laid the groundwork for his 7th and 8th grade students to design and construct a custom Aquaponics system in their school and raise edible fish and vegetation. Arduino units were used to monitor and feed the fish using basic robotic programming. Sensors were also used to test the water chemistry in the fish tanks.

The students are in the process of creating an automatic fish food catapult that they can control from a computer anywhere in the world. During the project they had discussions about where our food comes from and if it’s possible to create a sustainable food production in New York City. At the end of the year there was a BBQ with the parents. The student decided not to eat the tilapia they raised and instead eat fish less fillets. They were able to harvest the vegetables throughout the year.

Mr. Paoli says this about the project, “It combines mathematics, environmental science and socio-political ideas, with a flair of aesthetic design.”

Continuous impact / Community engagement: For a listing of press and to watch videos documenting the project visit their blog at

Fund More Projects Like This!