NORFOLK, NE - A recent conference in Washington, D.C. provided an opportunity for precision agriculture instructors from Northeast Community College to share successes and challenges, and to bring home innovative ways to work with their students.
Precision ag instructors Chris Burbach and Chance Lambrecht, Precision Agriculture Trainer Lonny Mitchell, Agriculture Business Instructor Brandon Keller and Northeast Director of Grants Dr. Vicki Geiser attended the National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education Principal Investigators Conference October 23-26. The conference provided an opportunity for recipients of ATE grants to collaborate and share ideas. Northeast is in the second year of a three-year $785,000 ATE grant to expand the reach of the precision ag program to include high school students and industry partners.
Burbach, who has been an instructor at Northeast for six years, said attending conferences like this help make him a better instructor.
“There’s no magical piece of material that I bring back that just makes or breaks my class,” he said. “It’s just new ideas and being able to refresh content. Sometimes you come up with something that helps you get that one point across that you always struggle with, that students maybe seem to struggle with.”
Mitchell agreed. He said that training is different than teaching because, “you only get up to bat once.” Mitchell said he has already put one idea from the conference to use.
“I developed a nine-foot grid that teaches about sampling and how the more samples you get in an area, the more precise you get on the variation across that field.”
Mitchell said he can connect the grid to GPS to show how satellites identify where you are. He said the training aid cost about $100 to make.
Lambrecht, a second year instructor at Northeast, said he was especially intrigued by a project from Maui College that involved sensing technology used in autonomous cars. He said the same technology is used in precision agriculture to identify and treat weeds.
“For herbicide use, instead of blanketing everything across the field, we would use this sensor technology, and as we drive across the field, when it sees that weed, we spray that weed right there instead of using all these pesticides across the entire field,” Lambrecht said.
Mitchell added that the technology is evolving so that sensors can not only identify that something is a weed, but what classification of weed it is and at what stage of development it is. The sensor then “tells” the sprayer what herbicide to apply and at what rate.
“In precision agriculture,“ Lambrecht explained, “we are all about conservation of the land, reducing our inputs and managing them appropriately.”
The Northeast instructors made a presentation on the precision ag program during a two-hour showcase of the approximately 300 ATE grant recipients. Burbach said the demonstration was interactive, using iPads and a precision ag platform for data management used in Northeast precision ag classes. He said students from other community college precision ag programs stopped by and were fascinated by the technology.
Burbach said he feels fortunate to have received strong support for the program from Dr. Michael Chipps, Northeast president and others.
“Not everyone gets that opportunity,” Burbach said.
This material is based upon work supported by the National Science Foundation under Grant No. 1700680. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
Northeast Community College Precision Agriculture Instructor Chance Lambrecht (seated, center left) and Precision Agriculture Trainer Lonny Mitchell (standing) interact with other participants in the 2018 National Science Foundation Advanced Technology Education Principal Investigators Conference in Washington D.C. recently. (Courtesy American Association of Community Colleges)