Making for Change

FAMU Students from various disciplines developed and presented the “Innovative Education Ecosystem (IE2).” The IE2 program is a project that aims to build a sustainable community while educating youth around Tallahassee.

The initiative comes as part of President Obama’s “Educate to Innovate” campaign – which resulted in more than $1 billion in financial support for Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM) programs.

Abena Ojetayo, Chief Sustainability Officer and Executive Director of the Sustainability Institute, handed down the announcement of FAMU’s inclusion into the showcase to various colleges and schools. The mission of the Sustainability Institute is to promote interdisciplinary collaboration to create successful projects and approach creative solutions related to sustainability.

Garneisha Hibbert, Industrial Engineering student from Miami, Fla., is the operations manager for the program.

“I would love for this project to show the community that there are different alternatives for healthy foods that we can grow ourselves in the front of our own homes,” Hibbert said. “Also [so] the youth and community will have a better understanding of food sustainability and E-STEM as a whole.”

FAMU students built a vertical hydroponics garden system made from recycled water bottles, which will be implemented at FAMU-DRS and Bethel Christian Academy.

The project will also include productions that promote awareness about a healthy food supply while developing entrepreneurship skills related to sustainability.

Shelby Avery, MBA candidate from Saginaw, MI., is the project cost manager for the group. She stated that her focus is on building sustainability in the community.

“My biggest thing is making the projects ongoing so this will stay intact when we’re gone,” Avery said.

Dr. Jennifer Collins, School of Business and Industry professor, mentors students and oversees the developments.

“We believe that this will promote an interest of entrepreneurship along with career opportunities, as well as spark the development of new businesses in Tallahassee,” said Collins.

She also stated that students will be exposed to local entrepreneurs who may have an interest in employing them during the breaks from school and/or hiring them permanently upon graduation from high school or college.

Collins wrote that a major component of this project will be the student-run Farmer’s Markets at participating schools.

The hydroponics system will provide freshly grown fruits and vegetables to the local area at low prices.  A portion of their produce will go to residents of Bethel Towers, an elderly independent living facility.

Revenue from sales will be used to sustain the gardens at each of the schools, as well as used to support other school programs.

The Sustainability Institute focuses on developing comprehensive and enriching programs that  will partner with various FAMU colleges and departments.

The IE2 is scheduled to start in Fall 2015, in alignment with the K-12 academic school year.