Some interns fetch coffee. Others shadow mentors. Alonzo Montgomery is building a robotic farmer.
“It's exactly what I imagined to be,” said Montgomery, an 18-year-old Gaithersburg resident studying computer engineering at Montgomery College.
"Parts everywhere," Montgomery continued, looking at the scattered gears, motherboards and computer chips that would be used to make the robo farmers come to life.
Montgomery is one of eight student interns helping Germantown technologist Peter James build a robotic farm off Brink road. When Patch visited the workspace — the garage to James’s townhome — Montgomery and fellow intern, Pranav Pranakkal, 19, of Clarksburg, were working on a steel beam for a gantry, which the robots will use to zip through the greenhouse to tend to plants.
Meanwhile, Talia Sieff, 19, of Bethesda, an electrical engineering major at University of Maryland, pecked away at a laptop.
“I'm just putting together a circuit board for our cooling system,” said Sieff, who did not like taking glances away from the schematic on her screen, despite the ruckus and sparks that flew as the metal beam got sliced at the other end of the garage.
Though it's still early in the process, this is all part of James's plan.
Under the shelter of a greenhouse, hearty greens already are growing in rows of PVC pipes, where a constant thread of nutrient-rich water flows.
But right now the farming is done manually.
Ultimately, agribots hewn out of recycled junk would tend to and harvest an array of produce. James plans to donate some of the crops to a local charity — hence the name of the farm — First Fruits Farm.
James said it could be at least six years before the agribots system was really robust, but he hoped to have a “decent” agribotics system in place by fall or winter to grow greens.
“We’ve got our work cut out for us,” James said.