GPRC Student Combines Agriculture with Computer Automation in Innovative Project
Thursday, August 1st, 2019
Breann Thiessen is developing a self-monitoring growing cube to grow lettuce plants more efficiently.
GPRC student Breann Thiessen has combined her dual passions of gardening and computer science to pursue a unique research opportunity at the College. Thiessen was one of two recipients of GPRC’s Student Research Award, which is presented annually to students who submit an actionable research proposal with high potential. Thiessen, who is pursuing a diploma in computer science at GPRC, hopes to create computer automated growing cubes for time- and cost-effective vegetable cultivation.
For her research project, Thiessen is developing an inexpensive alternative to the “plant computer”: a self-monitoring cube that can grow fresh vegetables either outdoors or indoors. Her work involves creating and testing a growing cube prototype that is user-friendly and can analyze and optimize the plant’s health. Although there are many indicators of plant health, Thiessen is focusing on colour, using RGB sensors to detect the vibrancy of the lettuce plants’ green leaves. “This project has given me a lot of confidence to jump into new experiences headfirst, to figure it out as I go,” she said. “I’ve always wanted more hands-on experience with coding and with hardware and tech. With this project, I’ve learned how to build a bunch of stuff, how to use the power tools and how to apply the theory. It’s way cooler than a summer job!”
Working under the interdisciplinary guidance of GPRC instructors Dr. Brian Redmond (mathematics), Franco Carlacci (computer science) and Charles Sanderson (electrical) has enriched Thiessen’s learning experience. “Any time I’ve had a problem, they’ve always been willing to help. They always come up with things that I’ve never thought of, or they ask questions that will lead me to discover the next step to take,” she said.
Redmond believes undergraduate research is one of the best ways for students to stand out from their peers in the job market. “That learning experience is really unparalleled,” he said. “It’s difficult to predict what kinds of opportunities it can lead to. Other students might have technically higher marks, but you can’t compete with hands-on experience.
“If you’re passionate about your topic and you enjoy searching around in the unknown and discovering new things, you’re going to succeed with research.”
Learn more about student research here.