Purple Plow Challenge
The Purple Plow Challenge encourages students grades 5-12 to research scenarios related to food, hunger and sustainability and build their own prototypes to solve the defined problem. Resources provided for facilitators, students and volunteers are written by teachers, aligned to national learning standards and reviewed by industry experts.
Challenge Question: How can we improve the quality of our runoff and, in turn, reduce dead zones in our water resources?
When rain falls or snow melts, it does not simply stay in one place or seep into the ground to replenish groundwater; most of it begins to move. When water flows over land, it is called surface runoff, and it is an important part of the water cycle, but have you ever wondered where your runoff is running off to? What’s in your runoff? What is the runoff doing to the environment once it has settled? Around the world, there are more than 400 dead zones in oceans and lakes, where the water contains so little oxygen that aquatic life can no longer survive. In large part, this is due to excess nutrient pollution found in our runoff as a result of home, agricultural, and industrial practices as well as population growth. In this challenge, students will learn about the impact of runoff in rural and urban areas and its effects on the environment as well as plan for solutions to this growing issue of dead zones, hypoxia, and overall water quality.
Agriculture consumes large amounts of energy in the production of our food. Farms consume energy both directly through the use of diesel, electricity, propane, natural gas and renewable fuels as well as in directly through the use of fuel in the production of fertilizers, pesticides and feedstock. In this challenge, students will learn about energy in various forms and design as well as build and share a solution that diversifies energy consumption.
Pollinator populations are shrinking, and several factors are contributing to this disturbing global trend. There are growing concerns as to what the impact will be on food production. Through this challenge, students will become more aware of the important role pollinators play in our daily lives and how to help protect the various populations. After thoughtful research, students will design, test and demonstrate a solution that will sustain or improve pollinator well-being.
People around the world consume beef, in particular in the United States. Every day, cattle ranching families are trying to raise a healthy and safe product, while at the same time, maintaining a profitable business and being stewards of natural resources, like water and soil. How will you construct a model of a cattle ranch that addresses these concerns?
Americans enjoy an affordable and abundant food supply thanks to farming and ranching families. Every year, one U.S. farm feeds 168 people. But how does that food get from the farm to our plates? What people are involved in the process along the way? This summer, learn the story behind our food firsthand by designing a farm to food truck!
Only 11% of our Earth’s land surface has the topsoil considered suitable for producing food. In the United States alone, we are losing at least 3 billion tons of topsoil a year to erosion! Without topsoil, our land becomes a desert and is not capable of producing food. Ready to dig deep to save the soil? Check out the current challenge page for the fall challenge that runs August 15th – November 1st!
See other past challenges. These include "H2Grow" a hydroponics challenge and "Room 2 Grow" a garden structure challenge. Facilitator guides, student guides and content guides are available for past challenges!
Short on time? Also make sure to check out the Purple Plow Puzzlers!
Puzzlers are hands-on STEM activities that can be completed in 1-2.5 hours. Puzzlers sharpen critical and creative thinking through agricultural-related activities. They follow the “create, test & improve, and share” steps in the Purple Plow engineering design process
The Purple Plow Challenge is special project brought to you by The American Farm Bureau Foundation for Agriculture (AFBFA) and made possible through generous support of our title sponsor, Corteva Agriscience.