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Community First’s goal is to create local solutions to the global problems of poverty by connecting changemakers from throughout the world. Meet the students of California State University, Los Angeles (CSULA) and how they’re doing their part in turning the challenges of poverty into academic opportunities and professional achievements.

The project was started in late 2014 as a graduate engineering project in the Mechanical Engineering lab under Professor Sam Landsberger. The objective is to build a self-sustaining one-tank aquaponics system at CSULA. The experience gained on this project will be very valuable to Community First as they develop aquaponics solutions in rural Cambodia.  The formal project kick-off included from left to right: Professor Sam Landsberger, Robert Alvarez, Robert Shalgian, Christopher Carlo, Meenu Singh, Measrainsey Meng (all project members), Thomas Hurst (external advisor) and Victoria Hurst (Donegee Media).

Project kick off at CSULA

The team members are bringing expertise in mechanical engineering, electrical engineering as well as excellent software skills. The system they are building is based on a Constant Height One Pump (CHOP) design using an Intermediary Bulk Container (IBC). Two workstreams are progressing in parallel: The fish tank and grow bed are being assembled with the piping and pump system. The sensors are being sourced, tested and integrated to the Arduino based control system. A solar panel system will later be added to the system.

Team & Arduino Controller

From right to left: Measrainsy Meng, Christopher Carlo, Robert Shalgian, Robert Alvarez, Meenu Singh and external adviser JP Mainguy.

The ability to monitor continuously the state of the aquaponics system is a key objective of this project. The team is integrating sensors to measure the following parameters: Water temperature, water level, water pH, dissolved oxygen, ammonia. The Arduino controller will display the parameters of each sensor and allow a user to monitor easily the status of the aquaponics system (the initial breadboard is shown on the picture).

The Los Angeles Arboretum has expressed interest in this project and we are very excited about building an aquaponics demonstrator for the public. The CSULA team is working with them to duplicate their system in the vegetable garden area of the Arboretum. It will be accessible to the visitors interested in home gardening and aquaponics. Here is the location where the unit will be installed:

Team at LA Arboretum

From right to left: Pierre Mainguy (Community First, President), Richard Schulhof (LA Arboretum, CEO), Robert Alvarez (CSULA), Measrainsey Meng (CSULA), Tim Phillips (LA Arboretum).

This project is scheduled to continue through CSULA winter and spring semesters.

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