Purdue Extension Offers Robot, Drones and Engineering Programs

Jenny Monarch McGuire, Purdue Extension Educator- The 4-H program is strongly rooted in Agriculture. It’s certainly an important part of the program, and agriculture is a very important part of Dubois County. In recent years, there is a new focus in 4-H on STEM programming. STEM stands for science, technology, engineering, and math. In 2017, the Dubois County 4-H program started a robotics club that teaches youth how to work with robots. The 4-H program has also recently covered other STEM topics such as makers and drone technology.

Some people might be surprised to see all this technology and think, “How does this relate to agriculture?” Robotics and drone technology are actually becoming increasingly popular in many industries including the agriculture industry. These innovative tools are being utilized more and more for work that people don’t typically want to do. Robots and drones are particularly useful for jobs that are dull, dirty, or dangerous. For example, a farmer would probably much rather utilize a flying drone to survey rows of crops than to walk through all those fields full of dirt and bugs to do it. That job can be quite dirty at times. Another example might be when a tree needs to be examined for a disease and a drone is used to observe the highest parts of the tree instead of a having a person risk getting injured to do it.

Technology is being used more and more every day. According to an article written by John Billingsley, “robotics has made a substantial impact to agriculture and forestry. Automatic sensing, handling, and processing of produce are now commonplace, while there is substantial instrumentation and mechanization of livestock procedures. ” That article was written in 2008, and the impact that robotics and drones has only continued to grow.

According to an article by Philip Ross from 2014, agriculture is the likely to be the first big business to really utilize drones. “Farms are far from the city’s madding crowds and so offer safe flying areas; also, the trend toward precision agriculture demands aerial monitoring of crops. Like traffic watching, it’s a job tailormade for a robot: dull, dirty, and dangerous.” Drones are helping to enhance farm productivity and are continuing to expand today. Transparency Market Research predicts, “the global agricultural drone market will expand by a rate of 23% from 2018 to 2026, rising to a worth of US$1,932.6 million by 2026.” It should be very clear that robotics and drone technology have their place in the agriculture industry.

In 4-H, we hope to help prepare our youth for what the agriculture industry looks like today. The mission of Indiana 4-H is to provide real-life educational opportunities that develop young people who will have a positive impact in their communities and the world. We must grow and change along with these industries to help prepare our youth for their future careers whether they enter the world of agriculture or not. As I previously mentioned, we now offer a robotics project in 4-H which helps get kids to understand how to program, build, and design a robotics. Approximately 30 kids are members of the Robotics and Innovation 4-H club. Thanks to a generous grant from the Dubois County Community Foundation and amazing new educational technology, we are introducing many youth to a variety of technological tools. We have Ozobots, EV3 robots, and Edison robots that are designed to be great teaching tools to get youth accustomed to using technology. Last year, the National Youth Science Day Experiment which is sponsored by National 4-H was all about drone technology. That experiment was taught at 4-H Camp as well as the Robotics Encounter last fall. Participants were able to practice flying drones and discover how we have to be careful and diligent when working with drone technology.

In addition, we now have many items designed for makers to help build engineering and creativity skills among our youth today. Last year, 19 youth participated in our Makers Spark Club during spring break. Youth get to build, design, create, and get excited about science. All the skills that youth learn through our programs can be utilized in their future careers whether it be farming, engineering, computer science, or nursing. 4-H can help prepare youth for them all. Despite what some may think, 4-H is not just projects or the fair. In fact, we offer several state trips that provide career exploration opportunities. 4-H Academy is one trip available to youth in grades 9-12 that allows them to engage in workshops related to careers. Some of those workshops include: animals, flight, plants, engineering, science, health, natural resources, food, and robotics. Youth could get hands on experience and talk to experts about careers of their interest.

Would you like to learn more about 4-H and what all we have to offer? Contact Purdue Extension at 812-482-1782 or email jmonarch@purdue.edu 4-H is open to any youth in grades K-12. Members can still sign up today! 4-H is growing true leaders one member at a time.

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