Four student members of the IEEE student branch of Oakton Community College came together to address climate change in Chicago, whilst increasing sustainable and healthy practices in the community. After much collaboration, they decided to accomplish this through an outdoor recreational and personal gardening center in their college’s community garden.

The team conducted extensive research through interviews and field studies, which led them to conclude that their main priority was to make the garden accessible to those struggling financially, especially single mothers. The overwhelming majority of community members agreed that outdoor recreational facilities are not as accessible or as welcoming as they should be, which the team plans to address via an AI kiosk.

The kiosk utilizes technologies learned in the classroom to greet, guide, and collect data from those visiting the facility. Before each visitor leaves, they will be asked to answer some questions pertaining to their visit via a Google survey. The team plans to use this feedback to ensure the facility meets the needs of the community.

Excitingly enough, the greenhouse’s foundation, which is made from PVC pipes, has been installed over a plot in the garden within the college campus. The team looks forward to growing food and plants to ultimately distribute to local food pantries as well as flowers to nursing homes or other community centers.

All that’s left is to utilize their engineering drawings and CAD designs to install the final covering of the greenhouse, which is to be made of high tunnel plastic, as well as the wooden plank backing to ensure durability during the cold months. After this, a few tweaks to their software modules, and a few additions to their physical structure they will have completed the project.

Samarth Deo, past Chair of EPICS in IEEE, currently serving as a committee member and industry mentor of the project, was able to see firsthand the team’s progress during a recent visit. He very much enjoyed the students’ brilliance in creating such a simplistic, yet impactful solution to combat a wide-scale problem. “This Chicagoland project is one such example where students from different disciplines can come together to solve a unique problem in a rather simplistic way,” Deo says. “I’m looking forward to seeing the end results.”

Connie Kelly, mentor of Oakton Community College’s IEEE student branch and IEEE Region 4 Director-Elect, had the privilege of mentoring the team. “These are great students who make me want to be here,” Kelly says. “They’ve learned everything from project planning, Gantt Charts, and personnel planning.”

The students have so far done a wonderful job creating a welcoming and accessible facility for the community to enjoy, and they are having a great time doing so. Thanks to EPICS in IEEE’s generous grant of $2,000 the Chicagoland community will have the opportunity to utilize this facility on demand. This project was a part of the Environmental Competition in partnership with the United Engineering Foundation.

Watch this video to meet the team and learn what about this project intrigued them!