Waukon High School graduate to guide Wartburg College STEM Day presentation at Iowa State Fair

To present at STEM Day at Iowa State Fair ... Waukon High School 1989 graduate and current Wartburg College professor Michael Bechtel and one of his former students, Angelina Carrasquillo, and one of his current students, Zach Pogorzelski (pictured left to right), along with another current student, Noah Solheim (not pictured), will showcase a smaller version of the aquaponics system pictured above at the Iowa State Fair August 19. Bechtel is the son of Dean and Sherry Bechtel of rural Monona. Submitted photo.

Wartburg College professor Michael Bechtel and three of his current and former students have been selected to present an interactive display on classroom aquaponics at the Iowa State Fair Sunday, August 19.

Bechtel, who is an assistant professor of science education at Wartburg College and a 1989 graduate of Waukon High School, will be joined by Wartburg senior Zach Pogorzelski, sophomore Noah Solheim and 2015 Wartburg graduate Angelina Carrasquillo in presenting the system as part of the 2018 STEM Day at the Iowa State Fair sponsored by the Iowa Governor’s STEM Advisory Council. Their presentation will be one of more than 20 from organizations across the state.

Aquaponics is the combination of aquaculture (raising fish) and hydroponics (growing plants without soil) in an integrated system using the fish waste to provide food to the plants, which in turn filter the water for the fish. The Wartburg College aquaponics endeavor was started several years ago by Bechtel, 2017 Wartburg graduate Ryan Henkel, Derek Happel of Waverly and Travis Angell, a sixth-grade teacher at Waverly-Shell Rock Middle School.

The Wartburg team uses tilapia, catfish and freshwater lobster to help nourish plants like lettuce, basil, tomatoes and peppers as well as other flora. Pogorzelski and 2018 Wartburg graduate Candace Baker have both used the aquaponics system as the basis for undergraduate research projects.

“Our team has worked hard over the last couple of years to make this project a reality, and we are very excited to show everyone how an aquaponics system can be instrumental in science education,” Bechtel said.

In recent months, Bechtel and Pogorzelski have been making a smaller aquaponics system with relevant Next Generation Science Standards lesson plans, which can be used in K-12 school systems in Iowa. The exemplar system has been scaled from the current aquaponics system housed in the Wartburg College Science Center’s greenhouse to fit in a K-12 classroom.

STEM Day activities will be available from 9 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the fairgrounds in Des Moines, with discounted State Fair tickets available for all patrons at the door. Hourly STEM performances will happen on the Grand Concourse stage.

For more information, contact Emily Christensen, Wartburg College Marketing & Communication Office, at 319-352-8347 or emily.christensen@wartburg.edu.

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