Photo by Samantha Bengtson
Congressman Jimmy Panetta (left) listens to freshman Jacqueline Chavez Melendez (far right) talk about Wings of Knowledge.
GONZALES — Congressman Jimmy Panetta visited Gonzales High School for a roundtable discussion with students about their Wings of Knowledge project working with local farms to gather data about water consumption in crops April 2.
Panetta sat down with a group of 12 Gonzales High School students to speak about a project the students are working on with Vahid Motazedin.
The students were interviewed by Co-Founder and Executive Director Motazedin when they were eighth graders. To ensure students would have time to be part of the Wings of Knowledge, Motazedin made sure they were in a MESA (Mathematical Engineering Science Achievement) class.
From there the students were broken into four groups focusing on technology or agriculture.
According to Jerome Russell, the group started with a “breadboard,” or a board for making an experimental model of an electric circuit. Then the students moved onto non-manufactured circuit boards. The circuit boards helped the students to measure the moisture in agricultural fields to a second location. Students used probes to go into the ground that sent off electro-magnetic pulses interacting with moisture in the soil.
Students asked local farms if they could use their agriculture crop field to measure the amount of moisture in their fields. Among the local farms involved were Gonzales’ Pisoni Farms, Gizdich Ranch in Watsonville, Salinas Land Company in Greenfield, Rava Ranches in San Lucas, Borzini Farms, Costa Farms and Woolf Farming in Huron.
“As we went on we had expanded to working with three counties, which was 10 farms, but now we have expanded to 16 farms,” said Veronica Rodriguez.
Students put two to four soil probes at each farm to gather data. The data is shared with the farmer, letting them know how much water is reaching the crop.
This year NOAA (National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration) reached out to the Wings of Knowledge team for help creating a weather station. The weather station would measure temperature and humidity to give more information for accurate weather data in South Monterey County.
“In this area especially, technology is the way of the future especially in agriculture,” said Panetta. “It’s amazing that you guys had the foresight to see how it important it was with the things that you are doing.”
According to Panetta, water usage in agricultural fields has gone down due to precision farming and without any funding from the government.