$50,000 from Ford C3

Oct 12, 2011

The Ford Motor Company Fund's "Ford College Community Challenge" will again help Kettering students partner with Harvesting Earth, this time to take the non-profit urban farming project off the water grid.

Kettering University does it again! For the second year in a row, the university in partnership with Harvesting Earth Educational Farm, won a $50,000 Ford Motor Company Fund “Ford College Community Challenge” (Ford C3) grant.

Dr. Matthew Sanders’ senior Industrial Engineering capstone class developed an irrigation system for the farm, using solar energy, rain collection and ground/well water to help Harvesting Earth get “off the grid.”

The Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3) is a national challenge grant competition that recognizes colleges and universities that utilize a school's resources to address a community need around the theme "Building Sustainable Communities."  Started in 2008, the Ford C3 grant is unlike many traditional college grant programs in that it requires colleges to create project proposals that have significant student input, involvement and leadership from beginning to end.

“The focus of their capstone project was to take all preliminary steps necessary to get a well installed on the property that meets the needs of the greenhouses,” said Sanders, professor of Industrial and Manufacturing Engineering at Kettering. This is the second year that Sanders’ capstone class worked with Harvesting Earth Educational Farms and the second time the Kettering and Harvesting Earth partnership have received the Ford Challenge grant. The first project was to design a geothermal heating system for the greenhouses.

“Winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community,” said Mike Schmidt, director of Education and Community Development at Ford Motor Company Fund.  “Each year, we select five winning proposals to receive this award and it is unusual that a university would receive this grant two years in a row.”

Kettering President Robert McMahan said the grant is an indication of what a university can do to build a community.  "Kettering is grateful to the Ford Motor Company Fund.  This is one of the many ways that Kettering can be a partner in revitalizing our community."

Students researched irrigation alternatives at the urban farm’s greenhouses by determining ground water levels, rainfall measurements, necessary horsepower, water needs and well installation costs. The project offered several options for the installation of a well at the property, owned and operated by Jacky and Dora King, founders and co-directors of the non-profit Youth Karate-Ka and Harvesting Earth Educational Farm.

The students designed an automated system to monitor soil moisture levels, for more efficient water usage,” said Sanders. “Through the newly designed automated system, they will collect data for tracking temperature, sunlight intensity, ventilation fan usage, irrigation usage and geothermal pump usage,” he explained.

Harvesting Earth relies solely on water from the City of Flint for irrigation. Next to heating the greenhouse and labor costs, watering crops is its largest expense. By using rain collection cisterns, which will gather rainwater from the roofs of the greenhouses and storage shed, and by supplementing this with a well, the Farm could remove its dependence on the City’s water resources.

Solar panels on the farm's storage shed outfitted with solar panels help heat the greenhouse in winter and run fans in summer.   Future potential uses of the solar energy generated by the panels  include powering pumps to draw well water and pump water to an elevated cistern.

Since solar power is intermittent in the area, and drip irrigation is best when constant, or regularly scheduled, the proposed cistern will have an automated valve system that creates water pressure for the irrigation system through gravity instead of electricity. Project completion is scheduled for May 2012.

Worldwide water consumption is rising at double the rate of the population, while the amount of freshwater is only 2.5 percent of the world's water resources. Local food producers such as Harvesting Earth Farm, minimize transportation costs and gas emissions associated with current commercial food production and have the potential to increase yields and facilitate reduced pesticide use. Growing organic food in local greenhouses is part of an educational process about alternatives to conventional agricultural practices.

Two papers about the project have been published about the Kettering/Harvesting Earth partnership projects:  “Urban Greenhouse Solar/Geothermal Research and Community Outreach Projects,” Proceedings of the 2011 Institute of the Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE) Green Technology Conference in Baton Rouge, LA, April 14-15, 2011. This paper is also available through the digital library IEE Xplore; and “Solar/Geothermal Saves Energy in Heating and Cooling of Greenhouses,” OSAPS (Ohio Section of American Physical Society), Flint, MI, April 30-May 1, 2010.

About the Ford College Community Challenge (Ford C3)
Ford Motor Company Fund launched Ford C3 in 2008 as a new way of working with colleges and universities.  As a part of this national challenge-grant competition, Ford challenges teams of students and teachers from the company's national network of colleges and universities to develop sustainable, student-led projects that addressed critical community needs.  In order to be considered for funding,  projects have to address the theme of “Building Sustainable Communities” in some unique and innovative way.  Unlike many traditional college grant programs, Ford C3 requires colleges to create project proposals that have significant student input, involvement, and leadership from beginning to end.  As a result, winning proposals have a distinctive student perspective on what it means to have a sustainable community.

About Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services
Ford Motor Company Fund and Community Services works with community partners to advance driving safety, education and American heritage and community life. The Ford Motor Company Fund has operated for more than 60 years with ongoing funding from Ford Motor Company. The award-winning Ford Driving Skills for Life program teaches new drivers through a variety of hands-on and interactive methods. Innovation in education is encouraged through national programs that enhance high school learning and provide college scholarships and university grants.  Through the Ford Volunteer Corps, more than 20,000 Ford employees and retirees each year work on projects that better their communities in dozens of countries. For more information, visit www.community.ford.com

About the Kettering University Capstone Class
Each Kettering University student is required to have a “Capstone Experience” before graduation. It is usually the last bridge for students between undergraduate education and the engineering profession. The course differs from other lecture- and laboratory-based courses in the engineering curriculum as it challenges students to integrate and synthesize general engineering knowledge into creative solutions for real-world, open-ended problems via projects in a team setting.

About Youth Karate-Ka and Harvesting Earth Educational Farm
Youth Karate-Ka, a non-profit martial arts organization founded by Jacky and Dora King, is founded on a philosophy with a holistic approach to living life - this is why it created the Harvesting Earth Educational Farm. The Farm started on a two acre parcel in Beecher, one of the most financially depressed areas of greater Flint. The property had been used as an illegal dump site for decades. The site was cleaned up and in 2008 the organization erected its first greenhouse. It has since continued to expand. Youth Karate-Ka sells the produce from Harvesting Earth to local markets, restaurants and individuals and is having a positive influence on its community.

Contact: Dawn Hibbard
810.762.9865
dhibbard@kettering.edu