Meet AIR Scholars Cohort 2

Meet AIR Scholars Cohort 2

When starting the AIR Scholars program, we aimed to create a space where students could think critically about the world around them. From climate change to the technologies designed to solve it, we challenged these young innovators to look at climate solutions from a lens that centered on disadvantaged communities.

In the summer of 2022, we welcomed our first Cohort—a handful of incredibly bright Scholars from our Brooklyn community ready to make an impact at AIR COMPANY. A year later, in the summer of 2023, we welcomed our second Cohort of students. In addition to expanding the program, we also added a hands-on component to the curriculum, giving the Scholars an opportunity to address a pressing environmental injustice: food insecurity.

At AIR COMPANY, we prioritize scale and impact. In the same way that we are working to scale our carbon conversion technology that allows us to transform carbon dioxide (CO2) into an endless resource, we’re passionate about scaling the AIR Scholars program to equip more students with the tools needed for building an equitable future. To do that, we’re working to continuously grow the program alongside our partners, and design a curriculum that other companies and organizations can replicate. We believe that is where true impact can happen.

Last year, we welcomed seven students who brought determination, curiosity and wit with them into Cohort 2. We also invited a second high school to collaborate with us so we could expand our reach. The seven Scholars were students from our pilot partner, the Brooklyn Academy of Science and the Environment (BASE) and the High School for Innovation in Advertising and Media. We also worked with Medgar Evers College, which supported the students’ hands-on technical research throughout the summer.

“I enjoyed meeting AIR COMPANY employees, seeing different faculties like the lab and the engineering side, and creating connections with different people.”

— Lauviah Fleury

While the overall structure of the program followed the same formula as our pilot program, with literature reviews, facilities tours, SAT/college prep and mentorship, the research goals were different. Keeping environmental justice and addressing the inequities of climate burdens at the center of their work, our second Cohort zeroed in on the power of hydroponics systems to address food insecurity. As the UN has reported, food insecurity is likely to be worsened by climate change due to crop production-related impacts of warmer and drier conditions in key agricultural regions.

By mid-century, approximately 250 million people will be at risk of hunger, in addition to those who already experience food insecurity.
Hydroponics are a type of agricultural technology (Ag tech) that leverages a controlled environment to produce food without soil, and therefore provide resource-constricted urban communities (like Brooklyn) with access to healthy food choices. Paired with captured carbon dioxide, these technologies can be even more resource-efficient and productive.

Named the Tower Automated Garden (TAG) project, our students developed an automated monitoring system using sensors that measure many factors of a hydroponic tower garden, from pH and temperature to water levels and light intensity. Automating the monitoring process decreases the amount of time and resources necessary to produce food in places with environmental constraints. This process taught the Scholars invaluable lessons in climate technology, electronics, coding and finally, the potential for leveraging carbon capture technologies for sustainable agricultural production.

In line with AIR COMPANY’s mission, the TAG system was designed to take advantage of a waste product, carbon dioxide, and utilize it to maximize growing conditions. During the program, the Scholars discussed their own lived experiences or observations of food insecurity within Brooklyn.
Statistically, 8 in 10 food stores are bodegas, or small convenience stores with limited healthy options. The Scholars made these connections, often discussing how food insecurity is a real issue at home, with several Scholars expressing concerns over the large number of fast food options. Overall, the TAG system utilizes minimal resources and space, putting waste CO2 to good use, and providing fresh, nutritious produce to areas where these options are limited or nonexistent.

Our Scholars

The Cohort has had some amazing achievements since joining us last summer. In addition to co-authoring a paper on the potential of the TAG system (expected to be published later this year), two of the Scholars, Mya Estes and Joel Stewart, presented their work from AIR Scholars at the New York Sunworks Conference this past May. We are incredibly grateful for the dedication our Scholars gave to us throughout the summer, and that they continue to give to their local and extended communities. We asked them to share their experiences in the AIR Scholars program, and here’s what they had to say:

“At the start of the program, 
I only knew I wanted to delve into science. Now, I know 
I want to pursue geochemistry.”

— Muhammad Ly

“I had a great experience with my mentor. He taught me so much and I was able to relate in so many ways. The encouragement and support was unreal.”

— Olivier Michel

“My 3 biggest takeaways from the program were time management and employee accountability, how CCUS technology can be used as 
a blueprint to solve food insecurities and other issues on Earth, and the importance of networking.”

— Mya Estes

We’re thankful for Cohort 2—from the questions they asked to the solutions and problem-solving they brought to the table (as well as their laughs and smiles). We are confident that their future work will contribute to a sustainable planet for generations to come.

We would like to give a special
thanks to our partners

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