Posts Tagged ‘Kirkwood Community College’

Tools of the Trade: What’s New In Agriculture

Friday, February 11th, 2011

Farming

It’s been more than 20 years since affordable geographic information systems (GIS) and global positioning systems (GPS) first came into widespread use, enabling the farm industry to plant and maintain crops with “precision.” Since then, numerous other innovations – automatic steering, seed and spray applications, and web-based technology, to name just a few – have made Precision Agriculture a standard way of doing business, with its efficient technologies and environmentally sound practices.

This week, World Ag Expo, “the world’s largest annual agriculture exposition celebrating 44 years of innovative agriculture” examines New Tools for Agri-Business. We looked at a few of the “Top 10 New Products of 2011” and how they further add to the “precision” of Precision Agriculture.

We’ll start with a decidedly low-tech innovation known as the AG Flag. As developer Mike Hansen explains on the World Ag Expo website, this “farmer-friendly” water-activated device helps farmers save money, water and effort by eliminating guesswork. “It’s an incredibly simple way to signal when your flood irrigation water reaches the pre-determined location in your field or crop and that it’s time to change or shut off the water.” Mounted at the end of a 5-foot long pole, the AG Flag springs up when irrigation water dissolves a strip of paper that secures the flag; once released and upright, the bright orange flag can be seen up to a mile away.

Meanwhile, World Ag Expo also tells us that a new software system called Connected Farm is helping increase farm management efficiency by combining precision farming information collected in the field with data management software and cell phone technology. According to a company spokesperson, the software provides users with an easy, secure wireless transfer of production records from the field to the office, and back to the field, enabling employees to work off the same set of data and simultaneously receive updates — no matter how far away from one another they may be.

And a new rugged tablet computer from Trimble Yuma is designed to work where farmers and ranchers work – in scorching summer heat and sub-zero winter cold, not to mention in driving rain and blinding snow and dusty, muddy conditions. So, as the World Ag Expo website explains, instead of using crop management or livestock monitoring software only in the office, this new portable device – weighing less than three pounds – lets farmers bring it into the field or barn, operating on two rechargeable batteries.

If you’d like to learn more about the educational opportunities available in the field of Precision Agriculture, check out the websites of Kirkwood Community College, or Agrowknowledge, the National Resource Center for Agriscience and Technical Education, where you’ll find plenty of information and resources, including educational and career opportunities available in the Agricultural Industry.

Agricultural Geospatial Technology

Friday, October 22nd, 2010

FarmerWhat is Geospatial Data?

In this week’s Episode of ATETV, we were re-introduced to Dan Miller, a student at Kirkwood Community College, studying Precision Agriculture and Agricultural Geospatial Technology.

According to the Kirkwood website, “Agricultural Geospatial Technology students prepare to work in the emerging geospatial technology industry…The two-year program includes courses in computers, GPS, ArcView and data collection, in addition to agronomy and agriculture economics.”

As part of this program, Dan is taking a class called Geospatial Data Collection, which introduces students to GPS and spatial data, and the many applications these technologies have in the field of agriculture.

GPS or Global Positioning Systems are an integral part of today’s farming industry. The technologies, which pinpoint locations via satellite-based remote sensors to within a meter of any given location, help farmers adjust for the fact that any area of land can contain wide variations in soil types, nutrient availability, erosion and soil moisture..

And as Dan and other Kirkwood students are learning through their own “real-world” projects, there are ample ways to apply these geospatial data collection processes. Here are some of their projects, described in students’ own words:

Produce Relocation. “Our family operates a vegetable farm for which we provide produce for many local grocery stores [as well as] for Wal-Mart. In the past, record-keeping has been through paper hand-drawn maps. But this paper method makes it difficult to manage fertilizer, yield and pest-control systems. [My project] will determine where the best place to plant is to plant our vegetables next year…through soil sampling, making boundaries and recording past plantings.”

Addressing the Iowa Flood. “I’m going to plot out corn crops in areas that were affected by the recent floods in Iowa. I hope to document the area lost to the flood and identify problems with areas that remain as crop ground.”

Creating a Map of Iowa Lake. “I am going to be working with the staff of Iowa Lake [to create] a detailed map for use by fishermen. I will walk around the lake and get a boundary layer and will use my boat to map and identify structures with the lake. I also will be laying a grid over the lake of 10-yard by 10-yard squares and taking the depth of the water.”

Dan Miller told ATETV that he’d like to take his GPS experience back to his own family’s farm. But as he also notes, his Geospatial Data Collection class has opened his eyes to other job options as well – for example, positions in the fields of construction or natural resources, or other positions in the agricultural industry.

To learn more about precision farming and GPS applications, check out this backgrounder from the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

ATETV Episode 42- Community Colleges: A Launching Pad for New Careers

Monday, July 19th, 2010

This week, we look at some of the ways that community colleges can provide students with a career boost – whether they are just starting out in high school or getting a fresh start with a mid-career job transition.

In our first segment, we talk with Dennis Trenger of Stark State Community College, where the college’s Dual Enrollment Program provides students with the opportunity to take college-level classes and pursue an Associate’s degree while still in high school.

“[Stark State] is working a lot more with high school superintendants and curriculum directors,” Dennis explains. “[This way we ensure that] what they’re teaching in high school is in alignment with what students will need for college.”

Student Michael Bucklew took advantage of the Early College Program at Timken High School and recently graduated from Stark State with a degree in Electromechanical Engineering – while still in high school. “The Early College Program is designed so that…the inner city kid can go to college,” Michael explains. And with this educational boost, he adds, students can be well on their way to rewarding careers at an early age.

“[Our] collaborations with middle schools, high schools and colleges are extremely important,” explains Dennis Trenger. “[We provide building blocks] so that students can progress….they don’t have to start all over again [when they’ve finished high school.]

Similarly, as we learn in our second segment, community colleges can help individuals who are looking to make a career change. Steve Hardister is studying Simulation and Game Development at Wake Technical College with the aim of making a job transition from the printing industry to a career in 3D graphics.

“I’d reached a salary cap [working in the printing industry] so I decided to make a transition,” explains Steve. “The advantage of taking courses here at Wake Tech is that you are immersed in the actual modeling and hands-on gaming experience….you do learn some theory, but you also get involved in [hands-on] modeling and animation very quickly.”

While Steve hopes to transition into a career that will enable him to develop simulations for educational purposes or do 3D modeling and animation for the entertainment industry, the skills provided with a degree in Simulation and Game Development can also be applied to such diverse industries as the automotive industry or even NASA.

Finally, in the third segment, we visit Kirkwood Community College, where the Precision Agriculture program is getting a lot of support from industry in today’s rapidly growing marketplace.

“For many years, Precision Agriculture kind of plateaued and farmers didn’t really see the value of this technology,” explains Kirkwood’s Terry Brase. “But with the newest technologies, such as guidance systems, a lot of farmers are excited and it seems like we cannot graduate enough students to meet the field’s demands.”

Kirkwood graduate Dan Bosman agrees. “As technology progresses, there’s going to be a larger need for people with [Precision Agriculture] skills. You could find a job working for a cooperative chemical company, for seed dealers….anybody who uses or is involved in agriculture and uses technology [will need employees with these skills, which go well beyond traditional farming.]”

ATETV Episode 13: Technology in the Lab and on the Farm

Monday, December 14th, 2009

This week we’re exploring how ATE programs are preparing students for work not only in traditional high-tech settings like medical laboratories and electronics shops, but also out in the fields of American agriculture.
First, we meet Shain Eighmey, a graduate of the biotechnology program at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Shain has turned his childhood passion for science into a two-year degree, a paid apprenticeship at a pharmaceutical company, and now a four-year degree at the University of New Hampshire. You can read an update about him here. [LINK]
Next we head to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Kelsey Meyerhoff is working towards her own two-year degree in agricultural technology. Among other things, she’s learning to use GPS technology to track soil samples in the field, a skill she first learned in a workshop while still in high school. Her classes are predominantly male, but Kelsey says that doesn’t bother her. “It’s just a challenge you push through, and you don’t look at it as something that holds you back,” she says.
Finally this week, we meet a dedicated educator who is sharing what he learned during his long career. Richard LeBlanc is the head of the electronics department at Benjamin Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, where he teaches students to repair electronic equipment, including many of the advanced medical devices used in hospitals today. A graduate of the institute himself, LeBlanc knows the value of ATE programs firsthand. He also knows, from his industry contacts, that teaching students how to communicate effectively is just as important as teaching the technicaThis week we’re exploring how ATE programs are preparing students for work not only in traditional high-tech settings like medical laboratories and electronics shops, but also out in the fields of American agriculture.

First, we meet Shain Eighmey, a graduate of the biotechnology program at Great Bay Community College in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. Shain has turned his childhood passion for science into a two-year degree, a paid apprenticeship at a pharmaceutical company, and now a four-year degree at the University of New Hampshire.

Next we head to Kirkwood Community College in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, where Kelsey Meyerhoff is working towards her own two-year degree in agricultural technology. Among other things, she’s learning to use GPS technology to track soil samples in the field, a skill she first learned in a workshop while still in high school. Her classes are predominantly male, but Kelsey says that doesn’t bother her. “It’s just a challenge you push through, and you don’t look at it as something that holds you back,” she says.

Finally this week, we meet a dedicated educator who is sharing what he learned during his long career. Richard LeBlanc is the head of the electronics department at Benjamin Franklin Technical Institute in Boston, where he teaches students to repair electronic equipment, including many of the advanced medical devices used in hospitals today. A graduate of the institute himself, LeBlanc knows the value of ATE programs firsthand. He also knows, from his industry contacts, that teaching students how to communicate effectively is just as important as teaching the technical skills.