Garden watered with tap of smart phone app

Century College student Kent Rueckert displays a solar-powered rain barrel at his parent’s home in Mahtomedi.

A 2010 Mahtomedi High School alum is headed to China to compete in a maker competition. 

Kent Rueckert, who has been attending Century College, was one of only 10 grand-prize winners in the United States selected for the final competition of China-US Young Makers Competition, which will be held in Beijing this month. He will also be competing against 80 projects from Chinese finalists. The competition includes a 24-hour timeframe to improve the project and prove what it does, Rueckert said. 

Google is paying his way to the competition. To enter, he created an online profile. The competition called for individuals and teams to submit projects in areas of sustainable development.

For his entry, Rueckert invented a solar-powered rain barrel called “Gutters to Gardens.” The product works by collecting rainwater from gutters, which is then distributed evenly over a garden through a series of tubes. What makes Rueckert’s invention unique is its remote capability. With a smartphone app or a simple voice command to Amazon Alexa, the rain barrel can be activated from almost anywhere to release water.

“If I can get international coverage, and I have an internet connection on my phone, I can potentially water my garden from halfway across the world,” Rueckert said.

While this innovative idea was his own, he credits Century College's Fab Lab for making it a reality. Rueckert is in the CVF (cybersecurity, virtualization and forensics) program at Century College.   

After taking a “How to Make Anything” workshop, Rueckert received computer-aided design software that allowed him to develop Gutters to Gardens. He was then able to use the Fab Lab’s laser cutter to manufacture the box that contains his device.

“I couldn’t have done it without the Fab Lab,” said Rueckert. “It gave me the perfect environment to create this project.”

Rueckert presented his project at Century College's Muskie Tank competition but said there was an issue with the device when he presented. “I just wish I could show the judges again,” he noted. 

The project's goal is to address climate change and food insecurity by making gardening more accessible and less time-consuming. 

“My intent is to make this process as simple as possible, allowing those with even no coding experience to bring the benefits of connected devices into their own home garden,” Rueckert explained. “Our other goal is to power the system using solar energy in hopes of encouraging a more accessible attitude toward sustainable energy solutions.”

To learn more about Rueckert's project, visit 


Sara Marie Moore

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