I am a high school
student that was interested in the growing beyond space contest in hopes of working with NASA. Right now, on the International Space Station (I.S.S.), they use something called the veggie pillow. The pillows were a great idea! But with my design, the LRM³, I hope to grow plants more efficiently than how the pillows were. On the I.S.S., they have six pillows growing in one direction. One issue observed regarding the pillows is, as the plants grow, this results in too much space below them (1). With my design, I hope to solve that by instead of growing all the plants in one direction, I anticipate growth in six directions. Using the suspended cube with six sides, I can grow a plant from each side and direct light to shine from multiple directions.
1. "Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest." Instructables, www.instructables.com/contest/beyoundEarth/.
2 10' 1" Pvc pipes
1 spoil of 8lbs. twisted mason line
8 1" 90 degree side outlet Pvc elbows
4 1/4 inch threaded eyelet screws
1 9cm long Velcro piece
16.4' 5050 SMD L.E.D. light strip with power supply and controller
6' CAT 3 cable
25'x4' 2 mil. Mylar
1 bag of perlite
6 hydroponic 3 inch baskets with snap on lids
3/8 inch rubber tube
1'x2' sheet of 1/8 inch clear plexi glass
1'x2' sheet of 1/8 inch Pvc
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Step 1: The Cage
In LRM³, there's something that I would like to call "the cage," this is a 50cm x 50cm P.V.C. cube. The first thing is to take the pipe and cut it into 12 pieces that are 44.9cm/17 3/8inch long. Then you attach all of them to the 90-degree side outlet P.V.C. elbows. If you want, make sure the pipes don't come apart you can use P.V.C. pipe glue or screws to hold it in place. Now attach the center cube to "the cage" we are going to put a string from opposite corners to the center cube. I took the 1/4 inch threaded eyelet screws and put one in the back top right and the other in the front bottom left.
"The cage" is the outside of the design I wanted to use a cube because I believe it is better for packing since circle packing is space-inefficient.
Step 2: Inner Cube Pieces
Now that we have this large P.V.C. cube, we need to make the small inner cube. Set the big one off to the side and take the 1/8 inch thick P.V.C. and cut 4 pieces 15cmx15cm squares and take the 1/8 inch thick clear plexiglass and cut 2 15cmx15cm squares. Find the center and cut 2 3/8 inch holes in all 6 pieces.
Step 3: Inner Cube
Now in one of these square pieces, you need to drill a 3/8 inch hole for the rubber tube. Now to glue all the pieces together, I used P.V.C. cement and made the plexiglass pieces opposite sides so you can see through the cube. The result is a solid cube that is 15cmx15cmx15cm with a 3/8 inch hole in one side and 2 3/8 inch in every side.
Step 4: Finsh Inner Cube
Now that we have the center cube, we need to glue the tube into it. I recommend a 1-inch piece of rubber tubing. Water is then fed through the tube via a syringe. Now we take 6 hydroponic baskets and glue one in each 2 1/2 inch holes. Now we put the perlite in the basket, plant the seeds, and then snap on the tops. Then to finish off the cube, we put 2 eyelet screws trough opposite corners to attach the string that suspends it.
Step 5: Lights
Now that we have everything built, we need to attach lights to the 4 horizontal edges and wire it all accordingly. To wire it, I drilled 3/8inch holes onto the pipes and ran the C.A.T. 3 wire and soldered it to the light strips. Then I put hot glue and electric tape on it to prevent water from causing shorts. Then string it up. The Strings should go from one eyelet on the small cube to an eyelet on the big cube. So, you have the cube suspended in the middle of the big cube.
Step 6: Finish
Now that we have the entire cage, the very last thing to do is wrap it in the mylar. After you wrap it a layer thick, you can cut a slit out of one side and use the Velcro, so you have a door or window to peek in and check on the plants and add water.
Designed with microgravity taken into consideration, it will not work terrestrially. Still, in microgravity, the water is free to move in the cube, and so it tends to float into the baskets so the plant can pull nutrients and water reserved in the cube. The inner cube, if spun slowly, allows more ways for the light to hit the plant and will spread the water towards the plants.
Step 7: Recommendations
LRM³, as I said, is more for space and microgravity. The idea in this is to be able to grow plants while traveling through space. One thing that could help this is crop rotation. Even by planting a plant, the puts nutrients back into the soil right next to one that takes it out. Furthermore, making both these plants eatable could help with plant growth and efficiency.
Another part of this specific design, you could spin it slowly so that the light rays shone it at many different spots, or as one plant grows, one could plant another next to or under it. The spinning allows both plants to get an equal amount of light. I also tried to incorporate a more hydroponic way of growing plants. I believe this could be the next step in "Growing Beyond Earth."
Participated in the
Growing Beyond Earth Maker Contest