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Precision ag trailer making learning mobile for NECC | News

These days, it seems that everything is portable — mobile phones, at-home deliveries, drive-thru and carryout meals. Northeast Community College (NECC) has also taken education on the road with the Precision Agriculture Learning (PAL). The 36-foot gooseneck box trailer features a range of simulators, as well as real-sized and downscaled implements.

When the PAL was purchased, NECC intended to reach three main audiences: collegiate, industrial and high school. Due to its success with high school students and its ability to fill an educational void, the PAL is now primarily used as a recruitment tool in the high school setting, said Chance Lambrecht. One of two precision agriculture instructors at NECC, Lambrecht has taught at the college since the fall of 2017.

NECC surveyed area high schools and discovered that many lack funding and educational materials necessary to maintain updated precision technology for the agricultural classroom, Lambrecht said.

In addition, the PAL is a hit with older youth because of its “wow factor.”

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“Everybody wants to fly a drone. That’s the wow factor and gets them excited. But after we get them excited about it, then we can say ‘okay, these are things we can do with a drone. We can attach a multi-spectral camera to this and make management decisions based off of the camera, ”Lambrecht said.

NECC targeted 11 high schools initially with the PAL, but the response was greater than anticipated. Lambrecht said 26 school visits were scheduled before COVID-19 prevented on-site interaction. They were still able to visit just under half of the scheduled schools.

Now that restrictions have lessened, the PAL is ready to get back on the road and reach even more students. The new precision ag trainer for NECC, Courtney Nelson, began visiting schools in-person with the mobile learning simulator last week of April.

“I was hired in January to incorporate precision agricultural curriculum into high schools,” Nelson said. “NECC mainly covers a 20-county area, but the precision ag trailer is intended to be used in the entire state and out of state.”

Educational tools featured in the PAL have included auto-guidance and global positioning systems (GPS) on both a side-by-side and a Kubota tractor. Another exhibit was a downscaled planter.

In addition to implements, the PAL contains demos, such as a seed meter calibration stand, hydraulic simulator with all the valves and a “corn board” to show how downforce affects yield.

Nelson is most familiar with nitrogen management, soil variability and drone technology but has ideas for expanding educational options in the future.

“With the help of my coworkers at NECC, I want to bring more livestock attractions so it’s not just agronomics,” said Nelson.

She also aspires to reach younger audiences in the long-term future by visiting elementary classrooms.

The PAL and its contents were originally purchased through a three-year grant from the National Science Foundation. The $ 785,000 grant ended mid-2021.

Lambrecht said that some of the pieces within the precision ag trailer now are shared with the NECC agriculture department. Also, a new three-year, $ 250,000 grant from the CHS Foundation will allow the PAL to continue to be upgraded as technology changes.

“We have been awarded a new grant, and that new grant is an opportunity for us to purchase new technology and keep that updated,” Lambrecht said.

NECC was awarded the CHS Foundation grant in March of 2021.

In addition to being a supplemental educational component and recruitment tool for high school audiences, the PAL is utilized as a presentation platform for field days. Husker Harvest Days is just one example of where you may have seen the PAL.

As technology continues to evolve, the PAL will keep rolling to bring the latest innovations and precision technology to students and farmers across Nebraska and beyond.

Reporter Kristen Sindelar has loved agriculture her entire life, coming from a diversified farm with three generations working side-by-side in northeastern Nebraska. Reach her at [email protected]

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