My wife teaches 8th grade science. This project "The Hydroshack" is a rendition of one I built over 20 years ago in my college teaching methods class. It is designed specifically for performing experiments in a science class. It therefore incorporates some modifications for flexibility and control purposes. It also needs to be collapsible for storage in tight quarters. If you are considering building something similar for your home, it can be less complex.
Please keep in mind that this instructable is not the only way to do this. You can build a frame from wood or PVC pipes or anything else of which your imagination can think! Your only limitations are the space your Hydroshack may occupy and the skills you bring to the project. If you are unfamiliar with welding, please use another construction technique.
Uses NFT (Nutrient Film Technique) - Nutrient solution flows along the bottom of the troughs and washes over the plants roots.
Very dense plant arrangement to accommodate 150 students in a 5' x 2' footprint
Counter top unit that breaks down to be stored above the cupboards in the classroom
Easy access to replenish and clean the nutrient tanks.
Flexible controls to allow for differing conditions: nutrient flow, nutrient solutions, lighting etc... in each trough.
The Hydroshack will be used to teach the students the "Scientific Method" (formal experimental procedures) and also be used in the genetics portion of the class. It is designed for hands on learning and assuming all goes well, will stay in production well past the completion of these units and throughout the semester.
Parameters of this Instructable:
This Instructable will feature the construction of this unit. It is not a primer for hydroponic growing. While my wife and I have done considerable research in order to design The Hydroshack to be as efficient as possible, we are not authorities on the subject. I will be making references to the process of hydroponic growing throughout this instructable, but only as a reference as to why some of the elements have been designed this way.
The numbers in each step correspond to the position of the pictures in each step. I will be presenting the construction in the most logical order, not the order in which the parts were fabricated. If you see daytime in the first picture, then it gets dark, and then returns to daylight, just run with it! :-)
Also, I had to redesign the control panel. The double gang box that was originally used did not allow us to use both timers and instead of trying to cobble together adapters and extension cords, I figured on doing it right. The sharp eyed folks out there will catch glimpses of the original control panel as the revision was made after painting.
Step 1: Tools
Please keep in mind that this is only the way I constructed this version of the Hydroshack. Using different construction methods and varying the design will require other tools and skills. Please be safe when using any hand or power tools. Lastly, This is quite probably only a partial list of tools. I tried to make it as complete as possible but it is entirely conceivable I grabbed a pair of channel locks from the toolbox for a quick twist and forgot to take a picture. :-)
In no particular order...
1. Safety first - Welding safety gear.
2. Assortment of welding clamping and positioning devices.
3. Measurement and marking devices.
4. My trusty, dusty 110V MIG welder.
5. Dry cut saw - cuts mild steel (ONLY!) one piece at a time (ONLY ONE) like it's butter!
I Love this saw, it cuts very quickly, with minimal heat, no smoke and NO BURR! It beats the wheels off of an abrasive cut-off saw. It also has the fastest fence change and adjust I have ever seen. Going from 90 degrees to 45 degrees takes about three seconds!
6. Compound Miter saw ( could use a hacksaw also)
7. 4-1/2 inch angle grinder with a few different wheels. Pictured is a flap wheel, I also used grinding wheels and a wire wheel.
8. Pneumatic cut off grinder. (for those ooopses)
9. A corded Electric drill and twist drill bits.
10. An electricians step drill with some twist drills.
11. An extension for a drill that holds the hex type screwdriver tips, and a #2 philips and #2 square drive screw driver tips
12. A hammer, center punch and marking device.
13. Linesman pliers for heavy duty snipping.
14. A utility knife and an assortment of screwdrivers.
15. Bolt cutters and the ubiquitous screw driver.
16. A rattle can handle!
17. A small propane torch and a tapered punch
18. A Microwave oven and Pyrex measuring cup (any microwaveable dish will work)
19. A magnetic sweep. (so we can walk barefoot out here when I'm finished)