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The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

The Student News Site of Texas A&M University - College Station

The Battalion

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Education for the environment

Photo by Photo by Katherine Garcia

Electrical Engineering Ph.D candidate Alfredo Costilla has gathered a significant amount of attention for his agricultural education app called BitGrange.

BitGrange started as a 3 Day Startup product and is now a reality for electrical engineering Ph.D. candidate Alfredo Costilla as he uses his technology to engage elementary students with the world of agriculture.

Costilla’s vision is to provide an educational tool for teachers and parents worldwide, and to help educate kids. By growing up in a family of farmers and volunteering with elementary school students, Costilla’s experiences helped craft his idea and drive behind BitGrange. 

Elementary school children represent a new generation of farmers and entrepreneurs, according to Costilla.

“We are a new generation of food consumers that can also be food producers,” Costillas said.

BitGrange uses hydroponics, a process that involves growing plants without soil which is 

generally done by adding nutrients to the water they grow in, according to the BitGrange team. 

Although the primary goal of BitGrange is to educate kids, Costilla and his team have collaborated to make the product available to be used by everyone.

“Safety is our top priority,” Luis Enrique Ramirez, electronic systems engineering technology senior said. “Children are very curious and they like to break things apart, much like us as engineers.” 

Costilla’s BitGrange team is comprised of Aggie Research Scholars, students from diverse interdisciplinary backgrounds, including computer science, computer engineering, electrical engineering, and influences. This diversity is what makes the project unique, Ramirez said. 

Costilla said he believes that great things can happen when fields are intersected, which is why he is combining such diverse backgrounds into the same single project.

“Most of your group projects … they’re mainly in your class,” Brandon Neff, computer engineering senior said. “Those people are in the same major as you. So this is like the first big project I’ve worked on with a lot more diversity and background.”

BitGrange can provide the opportunity to progress student’s experience in the classroom.

“We are so removed from where our food comes from and it’s not an area that we are focused on,” Allison Kornaher, management information systems junior said. “It’s something that our kids aren’t working on.”

Marco Farias, electrical engineering junior, said his wish for BitGrange is to go further than its interaction with elementary school children. 

“It’s seeing beyond that and thinking that we’re also able to help future problems like lack of food and scarce resources to feed humankind,” Farias said.

Costilla said his long term goal is what gets him out of bed every morning: to see the largest farm that doesn’t own a single square inch of land. He wants a user-generated means of producing plants, a similar concept to that of Facebook or Uber. 

“It could work. It could not. But definitely I believe that great achievements happen at the edge of uncertainty,” Farias said. “So this is a bet. I’m in with Alfredo and this team to make it work.”

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