Take Off! Indiana FFA Members Soar With Drone Technology

By |2018-08-11T08:05:02-04:00March 1st, 2017|Chapter Focus, Features, Top, Video|

These high-flying Indiana schools bring cutting-edge precision technologies to the classroom.

Farming isn’t what it used to be and neither is agricultural education. Pop your head into an Integrated Technology in Agriculture Systems course, for example, and you’ll hear teachers and students engaged in conversations about field and fertility maps, photosynthesis rates from their drone scouting or ways to program a precision planter for optimal planting rates. Students get hands-on experience with the latest in precision farming technologies — lessons that help guide their future and allow them to contribute on their farms.

Innovative agricultural curriculum like this is a reality for North Newton and South Newton high schools in Indiana. Fueled by a public-private grant of more than $454,000, eager agriculture students have cutting-edge precision agriculture technology at their fingertips.

This is exciting stuff! Especially for students who prefer to get their noses out of a textbook and get their hands on their coursework. And it’s all smiles when the day’s lesson involves going outside to pilot a drone. Can you imagine? A class that lets you go outside and fly a drone!

More Than Just Drones

Of course, drones garner a lot of attention wherever they go. So any class that offers the opportunity to fly drones is certain to turn a lot of heads. The students enjoy learning with them, too. But Justin DeYoung and Jacob Kessler, seniors at North Newton High School and members of the North Newton FFA, say the program is much more. “I get a lot of questions about flying the drone,” DeYoung says. “You quickly learn that it’s only a tool that’s part of a bigger precision agriculture program.”

In addition to several drones added to the program, the schools have purchased two utility vehicles, as well as many components for site-specific farming. “We are using the bigger drone to map out fertility rates in the field,” Kessler says. “We can fly the other drone over the field throughout the growing season to monitor growth and to look for wet spots in the field, or even to look at photosynthesis rates.”

Yet, that’s only a small part of the program. There’s also the data generated throughout the growing season. Not unlike what some of their parents or grandparents are doing on their own fields, students are making decisions to help them farm better.

“I get a lot of questions from my grandpa about what we’re learning in class,” DeYoung says. “I can contribute right away because of what I’m learning.”

The program is also steering students into future careers in precision agricu