Sparking a Solution

Kevin Royal, an instructor in Agriculture Science, teaches classes in Precision Agriculture. These classes include using equipment for measuring agricultural crop yield. According to Kevin, “Large farm equipment can be difficult to schedule, weather can affect demonstrations planned through the trimester, and you can easily ‘…throw away my shot’ since you only get one chance in the fall to collect georeferenced yield data as crops are harvested.” This sparked Kevin’s idea. What if there was a way to make it easy for students to collect variable biomass turf data that can simulate agricultural crop yield? And what if it is easy to maintain, quiet, easily accessible on short notice, can cover large areas and provide useful data? Finally, he wanted it to be fun for students to operate.

lawnmower picKevin initially tested attaching an EC soil conductivity sensor to the front of his lawn tractor to take readings while mowing. While this worked okay, he decided that a lawn tractor is not practical for class use on campus. After spending some time in the garage, Kevin constructed a stand for the EC soil conductivity sensor he could attach to his Segway miniPro. This stand included using two cans of creamed corn.

Once he tested the stand on the Segway, he realized this would achieve his outcome. It was portable, had good range using the app, and was fun. Kevin applied for the Learning & Teaching Center’s “Spark Faculty Idea Project.” This project collaboration allowed Kevin to be able to construct parts to specifically achieve their intended purpose, and he didn’t have to continue using the cans of creamed corn. The finished product, including the Segway miniPro, weighs right at 60 pounds.

segway pic 1The use of the Segway miniPro app allowed students to be able to control the Segway over 180 feet away from where they were standing. They were able to summarize the data they collected, and present it to their peers during class. While there are modifications Kevin could see for the future, this works well to provide students with the opportunity to collect data when weather permits. If it is raining on the initial planned date, the mapping can easily be moved to another date because of the flexibility of using the sensor and Segway.