Kijani Grows is an aquaponics company so one may expect to learn aquaponics farming through an internship with them. However, though the success of the farms is the ultimate goal of the work, you will actually learn or draw upon a breadth of knowledge that goes far beyond farming. A lot must be done to have functioning gardens that collect and report data through their sensors. The microcomputers are made and programmed to run the sensors, the sensors are soldered to gain the proper connections to the computers, the programs are made to run the pumps and lights, and the computers are fitted with routers to report their activity. When everything is working properly the gardens run themselves. The pumps flood the grow beds to both feed and water the plants so all people have to do is feed the fish and keep the tank full. So what you will learn and use at an internship for Kijani Grows is the technological knowledge and engineering thought process needed to develop these gardens.
Though people often use computers multiple times every day, most do not truly understand what defines a computer and how one works. Kijani Grows utilizes a custom Arduino style board paired with a Linux router to run its gardens. Working with these computers you are forced to understand computers on the most basic level. If you are a person without much experience with computers then you will learn how computers use binary to process an input, follow a command and generate an output. If you already have a strong background with computers you will experience interaction with computers at a low-level of programming that most do not consider, giving you tools for simpler programming methods.
All the computers used by Kijani Grows run a Linux operating system, which has many benefits. Since it is open source, there is a community of Linux users that help each other solve technical problems. Learning to manipulate Linux and communicate with your computer is one of the most valuable tools to be learned at Kijani Grows. Unlike other operating systems, Linux can be run on all sized devices from the micro computers that run the gardens, to personal desktops, to the large computers used by big companies. This uniformity allows communication with the microcomputers in the same manner as the desktops. So once Linux is understood it can be used at many levels.
Presently Kijani Grows is in the process of outsourcing its electronics production but in the past the Arduino boards were pieced together and connected to the Linux router. As an intern you can attend Kijani Grows electronic workshop and go through the process of soldering together the board and hacking the Linux router to connect it. You will learn how to solder properly and gain a true understanding of how the pieces on the board communicate with one another to complete computations. Hacking the Linux router you will learn to surface mount pins to a board, a task that many struggle to complete. The sensors used by Kijani Grows must also be manipulated to work with the microcomputers. So, you will get practice soldering and reinforcing wires with heat shrink tubes.
The computers used by Kijani Grows are connected to the Internet through the router so that they can report the information from their sensors. If the password for the network is changed then it must be resubmitted into each of the microcomputers. As an intern you may find yourself with this task. Or if there are difficulties with the network then you may have to use networking tools to detect at which level the problem is occurring and solve it. Through these acts you will pick up or practice some Linux networking tools and develop a better understanding of how networks allow communication between computers.
The computers run the pumps, sensors and lights that keep the gardens healthy. Programs must be made to turn the pumps, sensors and lights on and off at the right time. This level of programming doesn’t require any applications or coding languages. The programs are written using Linux terminology. You will learn how simple it can be to run loops and get things working properly using Linux. Interns have the opportunity to practice manipulating the programs to activate things in different orders and loop them in different ways.
In addition, interns will enjoy a pleasant working atmosphere. The staff at Kijani Grows is invested in the growth and development of their interns and will work to build a positive relationship with you. There will be no busy work or tedious mindless tasks. Your mentor will be taking their time to guide you as you learn and become more confident with your knowledge. Once you master the techniques you will have the independence of working alone, though if a question comes up someone is always there to help. The support given will allow you to thrive and learn if you make the effort.
My name is Tinkerbell, I interned with Kijani Grows in summer 2014