By CAILEY DINGA
The STEM research building has four main programs, environmental science, biotechnology, horticulture and data science.
The STEM research building was built almost five years ago. It is filled with different scientific equipment, a greenhouse, biotechnology equipment. There is also a water distiller system. They use it to purify their water for the greenhouse plants, “The city water is not great, especially for plants,” Clarrisa Chavez, director of the STEM Research center said.
In the STEM research building, they have four separate greenhouses, “Each greenhouse has something different for you to see,” Jenny Lemley, a horticulture major, said.
The first one is filled with miscellaneous items. It is treated like a plant daycare. Professors bring their plants up during the cold season. They also have plants donated such as pay pays and succulent plants that the students can propagate.
The second one is the research greenhouse. They grow various plants, showcasing how different plants grow with different techniques. Above the plants, they have red and blue lights that coloration promotes root growth and helps the plant grow overall.
Number three is the student-run greenhouse, where students are asked to grow and take care of a plant all on their own. They are allowed to choose different methods of planting as well as watering. “I had the privilege of growing sweet corn. When my pollen dried out I pollinated it with cucumber flowers. Getting to experiment has been all the fun!” Lemley said.
The fourth and final greenhouse is for hydroponics. Hydroponics is where they grow plants without soil, you add all the nutrients to the water and the roots get sprayed directly onto the roots. With this method, it is easier for the plant to get the nutrients it needs instead of absorbing them from the soil, meaning it can grow faster.
Another method used in the fourth greenhouse is called the NFT system, the nutrient film technique. Chavez got this technique from when she worked for the Walt Disney Company in Orlando. “I think it is fun to kind of innovate those different kinds of techniques,” Chavez, said.
In the NFT system, the water will come in at the top and flow down and will drain out and flow back, sort of recycling the water that was not fully absorbed.
There is also a pond behind the STEM building, which is filled with fish. They are hoping to renovate the area making it available for students to hang out and relax while doing their homework.
Biology and the environmental science classes will work with the pond, using an underwater drone to research it, check the PH levels and test the water compared to a typical pound. Also in greenhouse four, they have an aquaponic which is farming with the fishs’ waste and using it as fertilizer.
Chavez said they have a farm to fork concept. This means what they produce in the greenhouse is given away to the Badger cafe and the extras are given to the Amarillo Zoo.
Currently, the Badger Cafe and the greenhouse have teamed up and created a greenhouse bagel. It has lettuce, tomato, cucumber, different types of herbs, a slab of mozzarella cheese and a spread on top. “I love the greenhouse bagel! Knowing that the produce is from the AC greenhouse is really cool.” Alana Ramirez, a psychology major, said.