ROXBOROUGH >> Students from Temple University’s engineering department have partnered with students and faculty at three local high schools, including one in Roxborough, on a project concerning food shortages in the city.

The 18-month-long project involves 30 students who were chosen from three area schools: W. B. Saul, George Washington Carver and Abraham Lincoln high schools. Students range in age from 15 to 18 years old, having been chosen from the schools’ 10th-, 11th- and 12th-grade classrooms.

Jamie Bracey, the director of STEM education, outreach and research at Temple University, explained students are working together with members of Temple’s Math, Engineering and Science Achievement Program (MESA), along with the university’s aquaponics lab on the Ambler campus, the Center for Inclusive Competitiveness (CIC) and the Philadelphia School District’s Career Technical Education Program (CTE).

Bracey explained teachers approached individual students they thought would be interested in the program, asking them to join. As a result, the students involved have volunteered to be a part of the program, as opposed to applying for a position.

The program’s goal is not only to help build student interest and knowledge in STEM but also to build an indoor aquaponics system that can be used throughout North Philadelphia to help combat food shortages. The system is intended to be sustainable and environmentally friendly.

The partnership began in the summer of 2017 and is scheduled to last 18 months. Throughout the duration, students have met with teachers and members of Temple’s engineering department on select Saturday mornings to work together on the project and participate in workshops.

The program is being organized and led by Bracey, as well as Bertram Johnson, a teacher at W. B. Saul High School.

Once the aquaponics systems have been perfected, students are planning to place them throughout Philadelphia to help fight the hunger being experienced throughout the city. Specifically, aquaponics units will be built in three area schools: Lincoln High School, Kenderton School and Sharswood Elementary School. Additionally, the group is planning to place indoor farms in food deserts located in North Philadelphia.

“It’s an ambitious but critically needed project,” said Bracey. “Blending STEM, social impact and sustainability connects urban students to the idea that they will be required to provide critical resources in the future.”

While the program will end this fall, Temple’s engineering department is working to offer each of the 30 high school students an internship in the field.

Representatives from the high schools did not respond to requests for comment.

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