Simulating Plant Life on Mars

Students in the Autotroph Biological Design course in the Upper School Plant Science Strand contemplated life on Mars, specifically plant life on Mars. To investigate, the students assembled five MARSfarm bio chambers to replicate what a garden would require to survive conditions on Mars and planted bok choy seedlings inside. The chambers used different wavelengths of light as the main dependent variable in the experiment, and small computers, lights and fans to control the growing environment. The goal was to determine optimal growing conditions because, in a resource-scarce environment like Mars, it’s important to be efficient.

To simulate the remote monitoring phase that would be required in the real world, they deployed the bio chambers to a “remote location,” otherwise known as the Middle School Science wing, and monitored them with small cameras. They trained and collaborated with “remote researchers,” otherwise known as MICDS 6th graders, who studied and reported on plant growth and bio chamber conditions.

Upper School Science Teacher Paul Zahller shared, “The long-term vision is to identify the most suitable conditions for crops in a Martian environment. The design and construction of innovative hydroponic plant growth chambers are centered on using plants to sustain a  continuous vegetarian diet for astronauts and to provide air revitalization. Additionally, the team will provide recommendations and secondary applications for sustainable farming on Earth.”

The MARSfarm project moved into the STEM office in Brauer Hall as a scientific installation with educational activities and information, while students engaged in a second iteration of testing.

Students shared their MARSfarm projects on the KMOV segment “News 4 Schools”.