STEAM: The A is also for Agriculture

In a rural community where John Deere Corp. produces tillage and seeding equipment, Valley City, ND,  surrounded by farms and ranches is an ideal location for the  78th annual North Dakota Winter Show.

Any of the 71,000+ that attended Winter Show had an opportunity to discover an interactive STEM+Agriculture exhibit that staff at the Great Plains STEM Education Center coordinate as part of the Center’s education and outreach mission.

In the three days of the event, nearly 1000 people sat in a Case IH tractor, and in a simulated farm field, drove, plowed, seeded, or harvested corn in an effort to demonstrate the complex and integrative aspects of farming.

For example in the seeding mode of the simulator, “farmers” are asked to select a seeding rate and then are scored on an ability to balance rate with speed, and similarly when harvesting corn, head height and speed are to be balanced.16763391201_12c1c051df_k

The intricacies of the software design are the sum of efforts by the Center’s Amanda Fickes, John Boucha, accompanied by programmers Jarrod Lactot and Lucas Sorenson, and this author.

Adjacent to the Ag Cab Lab was the arcade styled Ethanol Racer that while challenging a player’s driving skill, coaches on the role that ethanol fuels have on reducing smog, a by-product of burning conventional fuels in metropolitan areas.

As agricultural areas are often the favored locations to site wind farms, a novel experiment was a part of the inter Show STEAM exhibit: design a wind turbine blade generator system that when subjected to a standard window box fan (on high speed) would produce a maximum amount of power as measured by an attached volt meter.

Guiding their effort was Amanda alongside her three interns who prompted a selection on the number of blades, of geometries for blade shape, a protracted blade pitch, and on the recording of relevant data both in tabular form on paper and then entering that data through a web-based touch screen graphical interface. 16577166320_bfc52831bf_k

Once entered, data was displayed and interpreted for patterns between any of the four variables with generation voltage. Guiding the participants work throughout was the Engineering Design Process that is often cited as essential to a STEM Learning.

The three intens are VCSU undergraduates Michaela Halvorson,  Alexis Getzlaff, and Garret Hecker each who earned an internship sponsored by the State Historical Society of North Dakota through a Great Plains STEM Education Center partnership to develop teacher training modules for a renewable energy S.E.N.D. trunk the Center designed.

Adjacently, the [original] Pickled Fish project prompted participants to identify any of the native fish species suspended in ethanol  at the Winter Show with impressive attention, signaling to Center staff that a traveling trunk would be popular among K-12 teachers in North Dakota.  16763384091_2eb220c8fd_k

Funding to attend the Winter Show was made available by the North Dakota Corn Growers with additional support provided via Jeff Beckman and the Minnesota Farm Bureau, and a recent permanent exhibit installation in Bismarck’s Heritage Center fueling design work.

See also our Flickr site for this event:

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Margo Laughton

Margo Laughton

Limited to two dimensions, exploring a 3rd

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