Southern Colorado Youth Blast Off With NASA Grant To Study Indoor Farming

Courtesy The I Will Projects
Packing the first Indoor Farming Innovation Zone (IFIZ) aquaponic kits for a NASA grant to the Boys and Girls Clubs of Pueblo County. March 2021

NASA has awarded the Boys & Girls Clubs of Pueblo County a $175,000 grant. The money will allow up to 150 middle and high school-aged youth across Southern Colorado to study aquaponics in the coming year.

The project, in partnership with Pueblo-based non-profit The I Will Projects and its Indoor Farming Innovation Zone (IFIZ), will provide in-home kits that will grow edible plants and have live fish.

According to Becky Medina, vice president of operations at the clubs, this special funding from NASA is also geared toward reaching underserved young people in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, programs.

"We've always prided ourselves on offering a strong STEM program to the young people we serve in Pueblo County," said Medina. "This is an example of moving that forward."

All youth in the program will receive kits that will enable them to grow edible plants, conduct research and experiments on seed varieties, and learn the finer points of data collection. Kids living in areas without reliable internet access will receive hard copy manuals in addition to the kits so they can participate.

NASA scientists will help facilitate the learning in online sessions during the six-week blocks. Additionally, IFIZ instructors and staff from the Boys & Girls Clubs will have related virtual activities, live and available on-demand.

"The nimbleness of these types of programs, to be able to reach youth and continue engaging them when there was a lot of shutdown," has helped them stay connected during the pandemic, Medina said.

Kids will get to keep the special tanks after the project is done. They will also be encouraged to participate in other STEM and STEAM (STEM, plus arts) projects available on the NASA website.

The project, known as Aquaponics Mission 21, wraps up in November and will also include youth from Boys & Girls Clubs in the Pikes Peak region and the San Luis Valley as well as Chaffee and Fremont counties.