An oyster habitat, abandoned houses converted to gardens, a cart that turns into a homeless shelter, a multi-layered rainwater filtering system—these are some of the products that they build as the recent digital fabrication challenge called FabSlam.The inventors are students, from 10 to 17 years old.Sixth grader Sydney Lane-Ryer said her team focused on the decreasing oyster population in the nearby Chesapeake Bay.
"Our solution was to create an oyster habitat that will sit on the bottom of the ocean,or I guess the harbor in our case, that will be connected to a floating wetland that has a bunch of different plants that will also give nutrients with their roots to the oysters to help them thrive, and it will also help filter out toxins and dirt and other things in the water."
This high school team wants to tackle a different problem in Baltimore: more than 16,000 abandoned homes.
"We wanted to convert abandoned row houses into greenhouses, that would serve as community gardens and also would produce food for homeless shelters and soup kitchens in the area."
The Digital Harbor Foundation, which sponsors youth technology programs, hosts the event.
"The purpose of FabSlam is to give kids a chance to experiment with creative problem-solving.So we present a challenge to them that's very open, very vague, and we give them an opportunity to come up with their own solution to their own problem that they identify within that sort of constraint."
The teams had six weeks to get everything done—from identifying a problem and doing research, and designing and developing a prototype or a product using a 3-D printer and other digital manufacturing techniques.
"A lot of these houses...don't have gas or water or electricity, so we wanted to make the house self-sustaining.We have solar panels on the roof.We also have an irrigation system with rain collection and filtration that automatically waters the plants."
The teams pitched their project to the judges and presented them to the audience.And then the announcement of the winners.My favorite part of the digital oyster foundation project is that they essentially showed us something that they could put in the water right now and we can see how well it works."
"I really learned a good life lesson here.I learned that with the right technology and even with your own hands and your mind and creativity, you really could make something that could change the world."
The middle schoolers say they believe that they can make a huge impact locally and globally.