Kid Engineer: Compost Heater | Design Squad


♪ ♪ ANDREA: We’re heating up
our greenhouse with poop. ♪ ♪ The poop is horse manure, which
is a part of our compost heater. ♪ ♪ I’m Andrea. I’m a member of the Green Team
from Groundwork Somerville. Groundwork is a nonprofit
organization that runs the South Street Farm. It’s a quarter-acre urban farm where we grow healthy,
affordable vegetables for the local community. Green Team is Groundwork’s
teen employment and leadership program. This thing behind me is located
on our South Street Farm, and it’s a greenhouse. We need the greenhouse so
we can start the growing season as early as possible by starting seeds
while it’s still cold outside. The greenhouse traps heat
from the sun, but it’s not enough
to get the temperature above 65 degrees,
which is optimal for growing. We’re not using electricity
or burning fossil fuels to generate heat. We’re doing it with compost. Jess is the deputy director
and farm manager at Groundwork Somerville. JESS: So we want heat, which is a type of energy, and we know it’s in the compost. This heat is actually heat
from the sun. We learned that the sun provides
energy to the plants, and the plants obviously
feed horses, and then the horses take that
nutrition and poop it out. Our compost heater will be a box
with layers of leaves, horse manure, and cocoa shells donated by a local
chocolate factory. Micro-organisms, which exist
naturally in the environment, break down the organic materials
in the layers. Micro-organisms need moisture
and oxygen to live and multiply. As they break down the material, they make carbon dioxide
and heat, as much as 100 to 150 degrees. The first step for our compost
heater is to build the box. WOMAN:
All right, we’re good. ANDREA: We faced a lot
of challenges towards the beginning. We couldn’t get it level, so we had to keep on moving
the gravel in and out. JESS: It’s not actually touching
there. That’s pretty good. (shovel scraping on gravel) ANDREA: After we built the box,
we had to take PVC pipes and drill holes into them
and place them at the bottom of the box. The PVC pipes go under
the compost layer. They will allow oxygen
to flow into the compost. And we put a layer of fabric
over the pipes, and the compost layers will go
on top of that. Now that we have the box built, we need to keep putting
in layers of leaves, horse manure, and cocoa shells until we get to the top
of the box. WOMAN: All right. (drill whirring) (laughing) Andrea! (people talking in background) ♪ ♪ WOMAN: All right,
last bucket coming in! – The last bucket!
(cheering) JESS: Guys, I think we finished
all of our materials. So I think that means
we have finished filling our compost heater.
(cheering) That was amazing.
– Good job, people! ANDREA: Now that the compost
heater is built, we’re going to start
planting seed. ♪ ♪ The best way to use
our compost heater is as a surface
to start our seedlings. So what we’re trying to achieve
is a higher temperature here at the surface. And this digital thermometer reads the temperature
of surface areas. It’s about 68 degrees here
on the compost system. The optimal temperature to start
seedlings is above 65 degrees, and that’s what we have. Placing our seedlings on top
of the compost heater allows us to start our
growing season much earlier. We want to make sure
that our community is receiving as much healthy produce
as possible, and we want to be
environmentally responsible. To generate heat in the
greenhouse, we don’t burn oil and we don’t use
the electricity. We’re mainly reliant on the heat
from the sun and the heat that we produce
from our compost system. We need more urban farms. They’re important for kids
that live in the city like us and who don’t have much access
to going into big, rural farms. So if you have an urban farm
near you, volunteer, help out. Do whatever you can to make sure
that you are involved. Urban farms are necessary; make sure you’re taking care
of yours.

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