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Neil Bluer, Balderstone Technology College
Dr Giles Johnson, University of Manchester
Pupils from Years 7, 9, 10 and 11, Balderstone Technology College

Creating oxygen to sustain life by growing plants under artificial conditions

Balderstone Technology College has teamed up with the University of Manchester to give pupils a chance to undertake cutting edge research, supported by the Royal Society Partnership Grant Scheme.

The 18 month science experiment is investigating if plants can grow in mineral solutions instead of soil. If successful, it could help scientists grow plants that create oxygen-rich environments in space.

“This project is giving students the opportunity to be actively involved in breakthrough scientific research,” says Neil Bluer from Balderstone Technology College. “It will also give students the tools to grow and nurture plants, something many of them have never experienced before.”

The project, launched in May 2006, has over 45 students in Years 6 -11 participating. The students are testing the different nutrients to support the plant life and using an EC (electric current) pen to measure the absorption of nutrient uptake to determine the optimal nutrient level to add to the water for the plants. The students also visited the University of Manchester to use a machine called the Environmental Analysis and Remote Sensing-Plant Photosynthesis Meter (EARS-PPM) to measure the rate of photosynthesis.

“We hope the students will not only benefit from the hands-on research experience, but that the project will also encourage them to support sustainable development in our economy and decrease carbon emissions” explains Neil.

At the completion of the research project, students will work in groups to write a paper on their work as if they are publishing it in a professional scientific journal.