In the beginning of the IL shelter in place ordinance, Plant Chicago organized a Virtual Science Fair to encourage folks to use some of their time at home to explore circular concepts! We wanted to know what cool DIY projects, experiments, and circular economy challenges individuals have been tackling during quarantine. Now that all of the entries have been submitted, we are excited to highlight our winners.
Submission categories included, but were not strictly limited to:
Circular Economy Challenges
Plant Chicago Auxiliary Board and staff members voted on their favorite projects… and the votes are in! Without further ado, here are the winning submissions:
Nataly Medina Project Title: “Composting”
Nataly is a Plant Chicago volunteer, who sprang into action during quarantine to reduce her family’s food waste. Coming from a household of five, with constant cooking during the shelter in place ordinance, Nataly found that her family was producing an unprecedented amount of organic waste. To mitigate the amount of food waste that ended up in her trash can, Nataly built out a composting system in her backyard. Watch her video to learn more about her project, and how you can reduce food waste in your own home!
Allison Lau Project Title: “The Effects of Plastic Compounds on the Growth of Brassica Rapa”
Allison was interested in the impact microplastics have on soil health. Through this project, she hoped to highlight the potential negative effects plastics found in soil have on plant growth. From testing “eco-friendly” alternatives to traditional plastics, she found that her control (the soil sample with no plastic contamination) grew to be the shortest, but seemingly the most healthy. The other samples, which contained various levels of plastic debris, grew taller and more spindly. Allison hypothesized that this was due to the plastic presence in the soil, acting as a bulking agent. The roots needed more room to grow, and as a result the plants grew spindly with yellowing leaves.
Avi Kazen Project Title: “Automated Mushroom Fruiting Chamber”
Avi is a Plant Chicago volunteer and member of our Social Mycology Working Group. As a self proclaimed tinkerer, he set out during quarantine to upgrade his mushroom fruiting chamber. A monotub is a popular design for DIY mushroom fruiting chambers. Simply put, it’s a plastic tub with some holes in it that you fill with colonized substrate. His goal was to keep his mushrooms happy and healthy, in a humid, climate controlled environment. So he decided to add a humidifier, a fan, and a suite of sensors to control the climate in the bin. Time will tell if this upgrade, which was a lot more complicated and expensive to build, is more effective than a typical monotub.
Thank you to everyone who submitted a project for our Virtual Science Fair. If you’re interested in seeing all of the submissions, be sure to follow us on social media on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.