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Inner-city Students Innovate and Create at GreenFab

research in action, ria, national science foundation, nsf, greenfab, education, inventions, Bronx, sustainability, green technology, south bronx
Ariel, Manny and Eric, students in the South Bronx GreenFab program, tested the effectiveness of green roofs as insulators by making a small model and placing temperature sensors on the top and bottom. They tracked their data over time to demonstrate that green roofs effectively keep buildings cool in the summertime.
(Image: © Lori Napoleon, Vision Education & Media and Stephanie Wenzel, SWIGG Studio)

This Research in Action article was provided to LiveScience in partnership with the National Science Foundation.

A portable solar charger — in an old candy tin — to power a hand-held video game; a digital drum machine; a system to transmit sound across the room on a beam of laser light; and a fifty-plant window farm; these are just a few of the creative — and sustainable — innovations that students are producing at GreenFab.

GreenFab is high school program that focuses in teaching science, technology, education and math skills with a "green" emphasis to students in the South Bronx. Using a hands-on and project-based approach to teaching, students are encouraged to create their own green-inspired designs.

Located in the Hunts Point neighborhood of the South Bronx, 45 percent of the general population — and 50 percent of its children — live at or below the poverty line. Only 40 percent of adults have a high school diploma. Hunts Point faces high levels of pollutants;four power plants, a sewage treatment facility and a sewage pelletizing plant are all located in the area. About 60,000 truck distribution trips per week to the food distribution center — the largest in the world — also contribute to high pollution levels.

At GreenFab, an emphasis is placed on understanding the value of sustainable design and technologies. Students survey local buildings and resources and create sustainable projects related to their community, including businesses that use recycled materials and that have planted indoor gardens and designed jewelry for community events. The students' final project involves creating models of environment-friendly buildings.

Students also have the opportunity to learn the fundamentals of electricity, circuit building, programming and rapid prototyping as well as how to use electronic manufacturing tools, such as smoldering irons. In addition, students learn to use 3D design software, including Google SketchUp and Adobe Illustrator.

Check out this photo gallery to learn more about the innovative and "green"projects that students are working on. To learn about GreenFab from one of its instructors, click on this "Behind the Scenes" feature.

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. See the Research in Action archive.