Hey Ryan... Right now Tractor Supply has Stock Tanks on sale.
One for the fish tank:
Two for the grow bed and one for the sump:
And a pump from Harbor Freight
And don't forget a test kit.
Hit up your local hydroponics store. They'll have what all you need to build a small set-up.
As for advice... I think that as students you should make some hypotheses and do some trials. That will lead to discovery and learning.
Andy's son lives in Hawaii....
There was a beautiful system in Santa Barbara being given away about 6 months ago. Unfortunately for you, I have it and am 3 hours from there. But the gentleman I got it from (Andy - he's part of this group) told me at the time that his son has a system. I'm not positive, but it seems possible that his son lives in that area also and might be willing to provide some on-site advice. You may want to write to him on here and see if you can get contact information for his son.