Innovation and green technologies was theme for Re-Wire’s fix-it week

Kaitlin Bradshaw Students in Joel Barlow High School, John Read Middle School and Redding Elementary School form the Re-WireNXT student atelier. Students learn about specific topics over a seven-week period and present projects to show what could be included in the future development of the old Gilbert & Bennett wiremill site in Georgetown. In front from left are, Leigha Nicoloro,  Juliette Nicoloro, Julian Ivaldi, Blythe Graziano, Caroline Wexler, Elizabeth Herman and Laura Stauffer. In back from left are high school interns, Olivia Ivaldi, Olivia Greenspan, Jamie Curtis, Matthew Hushion, Jonah Cerbin and Liana Viselli. — Kaitlin Bradshaw photo

Students in Joel Barlow High School, John Read Middle School and Redding Elementary School form the Re-WireNXT student atelier. Students learn about specific topics over a seven-week period and present projects to show what could be included in the future development of the old Gilbert & Bennett wiremill site in Georgetown. In front from left are, Leigha Nicoloro, Juliette Nicoloro, Julian Ivaldi, Blythe Graziano, Caroline Wexler, Elizabeth Herman and Laura Stauffer. In back from left are high school interns, Olivia Ivaldi, Olivia Greenspan, Jamie Curtis, Matthew Hushion, Jonah Cerbin and Liana Viselli. — Kaitlin Bradshaw photo

Continuing with the Re-WireNXT summer program, student principals from Joel Barlow High School invited guests to the Student Atelier’s program for “Fix-it” week. Focusing on social and entrepreneurial innovation and green technologies the group invited Dr. Richard Fu and Dr. Bill Gordon to speak.

Dr. Richard Fu, president and co-founder of Agrivolution, was recommended to the Student Atelier by the Connecticut Department of Agriculture. Paths crossed at a DECD Power of Place conversation last April before any contact had been made. Agrivolution LLC, 2012 and 2013 winner of CT Innovation Summit’s “Tech Companies to Watch,” specializes in urban vertical farming. The DECD also connected Re-WireNXT with molecular biologist, angel investor, and serial entrepreneur Bill Gordon, Ph.D. A recipient of a 2009 Gates Foundation Grand Challenge Exploration Grant, Dr. Gordon teaches on the graduate faculty of the MFA Design for Social Innovation at the School for Visual Arts, NYC. Dr. Gordon presented first-hand experience of three pre-eminent “villages of sciences”: Friday Harbor Laboratories, Washington; Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution, Massachusetts; and Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory, N.Y., Dr. Gordon’s alma mater.

Dr. Fu spoke about food security, emphasizing nutritional, environmental, and energy-related benefits of locally sourced food. He also spoke about out-of-season farming and the potential hydroponics, or growing plants in nutrition-supplemented water instead of soil, offers when used in conjunction with greenhouses. He pointed out the success The Netherlands, a country just three times larger than Connecticut, has had in employing these technologies. The Netherlands is second in the world, after the USA, in food exports. Dr. Fu spoke about opportunities for Connecticut to develop hydroponic greenhouses with microgrids as sustainable energy source. Many of the interns expressed interest in local farming and solar panels.

Dr. Richard Fu spoke about food security, emphasizing nutritional, environmental, and energy-related benefits of locally sourced food.

Dr. Richard Fu spoke about food security, emphasizing nutritional, environmental, and energy-related benefits of locally sourced food.

Dr. Gordon proposed G&B campus as a state-of-the-art modern village of alternative energy, “field stations,” noting that the Gilbert & Bennett campus is roughly the same distance from New York City as the Nobel-laureate-producing Cold Spring Harbor Lab. Student Atelier principal Jonah Cerbin attended the North America Student Energy Summit at Columbia University, NYC, in June and has been developing models for renewable energies at G&B. Dr. Gordon shared his experience working as a young scientist under James D. Watson, Nobel-Prize winner with Francis Crick, for the discovery of the molecular structure of DNA. Dr. Gordon also presented excerpts of an interview with United Technologies Corporation Vice President of Research David Parekh discussing UTC’s new International Energy Research Center in Cork, Ireland. Where Dr. Fu drew a parallel between Connecticut and The Netherlands, Mr. Parekh described Ireland’s strengths as base for collaborative research and suggested similarities with Connecticut, “a small, agile [country]” with good universities and multinational companies, “where you can test-bed ideas, prototype, and take them to the market.” Ireland is committed to being 40% dependent on renewable energies by 2020, making Ireland desirable as a “place you can get the early learning.”

The Re-WireNXT Student Atelier is also working with Blue Planet Environmental, LLC, NYC. This spring, several student principals met with field engineer Samantha Cohen to discuss options for Factory Pond and Norwalk River water remediation (Connecticut ranks 47th in the U.S. for water quality) and BPE’s nano-bubble technology for hydroponic greenhouses. Student principals discussed this meeting with interns on Wednesday and presented different types of renewable energy, including hydrokinetics, photovoltaics, and biofuels.

Dr. Gordon proposed G&B campus as a state-of-the-art modern village of alternative energy, “field stations,” noting that the Gilbert & Bennett campus is roughly the same distance from New York City as the Nobel-laureate-producing Cold Spring Harbor Lab.

Dr. Gordon proposed G&B campus as a state-of-the-art modern village of alternative energy, “field stations,” noting that the Gilbert & Bennett campus is roughly the same distance from New York City as the Nobel-laureate-producing Cold Spring Harbor Lab.

After the presentations from Dr. Fu and Dr. Gordon, Student Atelier interns made plans adapting an existing mill site building for work, food production, and energy production. They began with sketches and proceeded to create models using bark, mesh, cardboard, Styrofoam, poster board, paper, glue, clay, cork, and water. These multi-purpose buildings help foster campus fluidity and coherency.

Each week of Re-WireNXT’s summer Student Atelier has a focus in which the middle and elementary school interns explore concepts related to the Gilbert & Bennett Wire Mill site. Cross-pollination of ideas is encouraged between each vertical: Transportation, Ecology, Architecture, Environmental Remediation/Green Energies, Food/Hospitality/Farming, and Fashion/Art. By inviting field professionals, such as Dr. Fu and Dr. Gordon, the Atelier intend to foster the same social enrichments envisioned in the proposed Gilbert & Bennett restoration project.

Every Friday, the community is welcome to visit the studio at the G&B Cultural Center in Wilton to view and discuss the vertical themed projects produced by atelier interns and student principals.

Re-WireNXT Student Atelier is funded by the Connecticut Trust for Historic Preservation, Redding Education Foundation, and Fairfield County Bank, and is sponsored by Artspire, a program of the New York Foundation for the Arts.

For more information, contact [email protected]

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