Tag Archives: sustainability

Sustainable inventions from Tesseract 7th graders

From apps to clothes to organizational tools, seventh graders at Tesseract School have thought of and created sustainable inventions that can make life easier and better while also helping the planet.

On top of writing a persuasive letter in English class that was directed toward a company or someone who might distribute the inventions, students designed models and samples of their ideas. When they first started their projects eight weeks ago, they spent about the first month brainstorming and working on a packet to help decide what their projects would be.

“At first I was a little freaked out because I didn’t know what I was going to do, and it seemed kind of hard,” said seventh grader Max Whooley. But he said “eventually everyone got a good idea; even if it wasn’t 100 percent an invention no one had done before, they all had something unique.”

One student, inspired by a trip to Cambodia, constructed shoes from bike tires. Another created a Drive-In that goes into businesses so people can order food, leave and then drive back to find their food in a nice container ready to be picked up.

Jessica Wilder decided organization was a big problem, especially for her sister. So she devised a backpack with folders already attached for organizing papers, as well as a planner and notebook that attaches handily with Velcro to the outside of the “Pack Back.”

For virtual organizing, Landon Nutt created the app iBackpack which allows students to access a dictionary, Spanish website, grades, math books and notes that can be uploaded if they were taken online. He doesn’t like carrying all his books in his backpack, so this would be a lot easier and also save paper, Nutt said.

Biosoilable bags are handy for planting without doing a lot of the work or harming the environment, said Ariana Lesniak. The bag is made from potato starch, glycerin, vinegar, water and baking soda, and “it looks like you poured the soil in and did all the hard work, when you really didn’t do any of it,” Lesniak said.

For pet lovers, Lea Byrnes came up with the Green Pet, Pet Bed, a doggy bed made out of recycled pajamas. Because her dog continuously ruins his plastic bed, Byrnes decided to make a washable bed that wouldn’t waste materials, she said.

For campers as well as Third World countries that don’t have electricity, Gabby Vatistas created a light using zinc and copper in potatoes, an idea started because of her pet peeve of people leaving lights on. Another student, Lisa Lewson, is bothered when people leave a public restroom without washing their hands, so she made a model of her idea to have a voice asking, “Did you remember to wash your hands?” when the bathroom door opens.

Devin Gillis, wanting to do something with designing and photography, decided to create economy friendly shirts that are displayed online in pictures she took. Whenever someone buys a shirt, another shirt with a logo she designed is sent to a child in need. Her company, Sublime, means “of such excellence and grace,” Gillis said. She wants to open the idea of good karma and inspire people to “do something good just to do something good.”

 “The students demonstrated remarkable enthusiasm, ingenuity and resourcefulness from beginning to end for this project,” said middle school science teacher Andrew Martin in a press release.

The students will be presenting their inventions at Tesseract’s Celebration of Innovation Thursday, March 22 from 6:30 to 7:30 p.m. at the middle and high school campus, 3939 East Shea Blvd in Phoenix. tesseractschool.org.

Story and photos by Amy Vogelsang


Eco-friendly food and table

Students who don’t know where their years of education are taking them might want to ask peers at Metro Tech High School in the Phoenix Union High School District. These students designed, built and operate a fine dining restaurant, The Sustainable Table (pictured above)  on campus, integrating green technologies and sustainability into the construction, furnishings and menu.

To start, a beverage made with fresh extracted cucumber, honeydew, lime with a hint of mint.

Students in Construction Technologies did the remodeling and Fashion and Interior Technology students chose the furnishings, lighting and colors. The floor is from recycled milk cartons laid without adhesives.  Wood tables and chairs are from sustainable forests.

The tables are from recycled countertops. When the old space was demolished as much of the material was recycled or re-purposed as possible.

Most of the light is from solar tube skylights. Electrical lighting is from LED lights, which use a miniscule amount of energy. Two large flat-screen monitors in the dining area will replace paper menus. The green attitude pervades the project throughout, so toxic fumes and unhealthy materials are absent.

Carpaccio beet salad, honey mustard with micro greens

But a restaurant is for eating and the true test is the food. As part of my job, whenever I cover anything involving food, it is my duty to my reader(s) to taste whatever is put in front of me. The gastronomic fact is, the food at The Sustainable Table, prepared by the culinary students, is very good.

What was on the menu? The photos will tell you.

The experience for the students at Metro Tech involved in the project is just as good as the food. The Sustainable Table is just one of 23 sustainability projects at Metro Tech funded by a $900,000 Science Foundation Arizona grant.

Pan-seared free range chicken, roasted raspberries, chipotle bulgar, ratatouille with stuffed squash blossom, honey-glazed pecans

mini-indulgence dessert

A campus orchard will ultimately provide figs, apples, citrus, pomegranates and grapes to the restaurant as well as herbs and produce from the garden, which is watered by a rainwater harvesting system.

“Sustainability projects are an ideal framework for instructional design,” Metro Tech Principal Kate McDonald says. “They provide students an opportunity to collaboratively work on cross-curricular, real-world projects that can present solutions we need in our local and global communities.”

I have a feeling most students aren’t thinking of instructional design or cross-curricular projects. But the real-world part sounds a lot like the better possibility for a job once graduation day arrives.

Senior Danh Vu who put together the rainwater capturing system to water the school garden is now a certified rainwater harvesting technician after taking classes from the Watershed Management Group. He has his sights on an engineering degree from Georgia Tech.

Story and photos by Dan Friedman