Arts & Life, Features

CSULB Design students awarded in the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge

For many city-dwellers living in cramped apartment buildings, having an at-home garden isn’t a practical — or even physically possible — option.

Cal State Long Beach industrial design seniors Jimmy Huynh, Brian Mar, Matthew Ulery and Patrick Soriano sought to create a solution to this common issue.

The team started on a project named “Aquacity” for their ID methodology course, which wound up taking first place and $1,500 in the living product category of the Biomimicry Global Design Challenge — an international competition addressing critical sustainability issues with nature-inspired solutions.

This year, the theme of the challenge also required inventions to relate healthy dieting, so the team focused on a practical way to grow vegetation.

“We live in cities and we all wanted to start growing a garden,” Huynh said. “But it was hard to do because of the space we had.”

Their contest entry, Aquacity, is a wall-mounted system that will allow people to grow a garden inside their home.

Each pod has four capsules that allow gardeners to grow a few varieties of plants using aquaponic technology.

“[It’s] a very efficient way of watering [and] giving nutrients to plants,” Huynh said. “It uses like 80 percent less water than traditional gardening methods so we decided to use that kind of technology in our design.”

Each pod drips water through the capsules and has a reservoir at the bottom that collects the excess water. The reservoir aerates and refuels the water with nutrients before pumping it back to the dripping mechanism, effectively recycling and saving water.

To be as space efficient as possible, the pods are shaped like honeycombs, allowing Aquacity users to configure pods in whatever design best fits their wall space. According to the team, since the design must be inspired by nature, the pods’ hexagon shape was influenced by beehives. Having multiple small capsules per pod was inspired by the sea toad that raises its offspring in individual cavities on its back.

Aquacity works in any space because it outputs high intensity light that stimulates sunlight, with an LED that surrounds each pod. The light system, which was inspired by the lobed comb jellyfish, even changes colors to indicate when nutrient levels are running low.

The competition didn’t require the team to make a functioning model of their design, but for the methodology project, they were required to build a “mock-up.”

“We did create a rough model prototype,” Huynh said. “But it’s definitely not a refined, nice prototype.”

The team has no intention of using their invention to create an Aquacity company after graduation in the spring, but that doesn’t mean big things should not be expected from this group.

The team will be featured on NBC’s Golf Channel for a show called “Driver vs. Driver” on Oct. 4.

“It’s pretty much just us on a reality TV show competing to design for Wilson staff’s next innovative driver,” Huynh said.

So to see if this CSULB crew can win another competition check the TV to see how they build the best golf club they can.

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