Teen engineers from three high school programs--FIRST robotics, New England Aquarium Ambassadors, and NPS Branching Out Ambassadors--are solving resource management challenges at Minute Man National Historical Park. Most recently on a chilly February Saturday, a team of high students from the Boston area worked together to design and build transportable compost bins for the park's invasive plant management program. "The students are really good at team-based problem solving," observes Ryan Ullrich, the park's Community Volunteer Ambassador.
Previously, the park transported two tons of invasive plants a long distance to an incinerator facility. "We would prefer to compost on-site before invasive plants set seed, which would save a lot of labor and fuel," explains Margie Brown, the parks Natural and Cultural Resource Manager. "We need the students to design and build compost bins for weeds that are as large as possible, but light enough to be moved by two people; be easy to build and inexpensive; and harmonize with the park setting."
A local FIRST robotics team, the Gearticks provided technical expertise on safe tool use, construction methods, and design ideas. "It is fun to work with other students and we are having a good time building on a nice winter day," notes high school junior Jack Hutchinson. The students learned to use cordless drills and other hand tools to assemble a prototype compost bin. The bin will placed out of site at the edge of a garden and be filled by landscape stewards throughout the growing season.
High school students have also designed and built a simple and effective defense system to protect young apple trees in historic orchards. Their project will protect young apple trees from deer, rabbit, vole, weed, and mower damage--as well as grazing livestock. The park requested that the teen engineers design enclosures to be invisible in the historic landscape, which reflects the colonial agrarian setting at the time of the American Revolution. Collaborating with the NPS Branching Out Ambassador Program, the FIRST Gearticks used thin but strong spring steel with small 3-D printed fasteners secured to 1/2 inch rebar.
Additional projects include a transportable livestock shelter designed and built by NPS Branching Out team and secure donation boxes built by the FIRST Gearticks. The park is very appreciative of the design and building skills of these teen engineers!