Farm in the Classroom Competition Kickoff

There’s a new competition underway in Pennsylvania called, Farm in the Classroom. The competition is the result of a collaborative effort between Dr. Sharon Brusic, Professor in Applied Engineering, Safety & Technology (AEST), and Tommy Kuhns, undergraduate student in Technology & Engineering Education (TECE) who is serving as the contest facilitator.

The Farm in the Classroom competition was designed by Brusic & Kuhns to promote more awareness and interest in sustainable agriculture – specifically hydroponic and aquaponic systems. Hydroponics is the practice of using nutrient rich water to grow plants. Aquaponics is an extension of hydroponics that utilizes the waste that fish produce as nutrients to support plant growth. Brusic & Kuhns received funding through the Agriculture and Youth Grant program through the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture to organize and implement this innovative contest for Pennsylvania middle school and high school aged students. The competition invites student teams to design, build, and test a hydroponic or aquaponic system.

Teams are challenged to prepare a design plan for a new hydroponics or aquaponics system that can be constructed within the maximum budget of $1500 (Middle and High school Divisions) or $2000 (Aquaponics Division). After submission, design plans will be reviewed by judges, most of whom are MU TECE students in the AEST department.

One winning team from each division will receive the funds needed to build their systems (based on their approved budget) and receive a trip (up to 10 individuals per winning team) to Millersville University on Friday April 12th, 2024. During this visit, students will meet with Paul Nickerson, vice president of Applied Sciences at INTAG Aquaponics (a co-sponsor of this competition), tour the AEST and Biology facilities at MU, see hydroponics and aquaponics systems at MU, and participate in a question/answer session. Members of the Technology & Engineering Education Collegiate Association at Millersville University (TEECA@MU) are helping to sponsor and support the event by providing many judges, making plaques for the winning teams, and producing some items that will be given to the visiting students. Past President of TEECA@MU and senior TECE student, Aleia Baker, designed the Farm in the Classroom logo, too.

Competitors must submit their entries by March 8 with competition winners announced by March 18. Winning teams will design, build, test, and cycle their systems through May 24, 2024. As the winners create their systems, they will receive one or more site visits from Tommy Kuhns. Tommy Kuhns has done extensive research and development on these systems as part of his departmental honors work. Tommy will provide the winning teams with insight and verify construction.

For more information about the competition, please contact Tommy Kuhns at or Dr. Sharon Brusic at

By Sharon Brusic & Thomas Kuhns

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