Have you ever grown food inside of a computer? Although the concept sounds like a George Orwell novel, a food computer is not science fiction. DGS’s Melanie Shimano has been bringing her Food Computer Program to schools in Baltimore City since January 2017. The success of the Program is taking Melanie to South by Southwest (SXSW) this March. SXSW is a conference and festival in Austin Texas that brings music, food, and technology together. The lectures and classes are known for their innovative ideas and it’s exciting to see a DGS team member be a part of this conference.
So, what is a food computer? Shimano explains that a food computer is a “ tabletop greenhouse with sensors….you can basically create any climate you want inside the computer….and grow vegetables, fruit, even flowers inside of it”. The food computer was a concept created by MIT Media Lab Open Agriculture Initiative (OpenAg), this group has done the research on how to make a working food computer and the information is free for anyone to access. Shimano says “Baltimore has a lot of food systems challenges, food deserts, and food inequality. It would be a really cool tool to teach Baltimore kids how technology relates to real life if we built a food computer farm in an area that is a food desert how would that give people access to healthy food”?
Melanie has been working at DGS since September 2017 and is a part of the Business Process Improvement Office in our Administration Department. While at DGS the Melanie has been working to help streamline data information and she has been finding common ground between her Food Computer Program and her work at DGS, “How to use data and technology effectively is the common theme in what I am doing right now”.
Currently, the Food Computer Program is running at two schools in Baltimore City, Green St. Academy, and Gwynns Falls Elementary. Through “co-teaching” and “hands-on learning” the classes have been an entry point for students who otherwise would never have learned robotics and computer coding.