Join Senior lecturer Paula and engineering researcher Megan from Harper Adams University. Journey with them to the farm of the future.
Your pupils are invited into their robotics lab to look at how robots can solve some of farming’s biggest challenges. How can we improve soil health? How can we make growing crops more efficient? How can we farm areas that weren’t suitable for growing crops before?
Also if you’re worried it won’t be futuristic enough, there will be lasers, and they will be zapping things.
NFU Education has provided supporting teacher resources for this lesson. The 'Precision Weeding Activity' student sheet is for use during the lesson. The 'Design a farming machine of the future' student sheet is a STEM challenge that can be used after the lesson.
If you have never joined a live lesson before, see the guidance hub, where you will find technical and educational support.
Live lessons work best when students have some prior knowledge and have prepared questions. Read our How to generate higher-order questions guide and give the children some time to generate some questions about Paula and Megan, robots, soil health, future tech and lasers. You might also like to explore our 3D tour of British technology startup Small Robot Company.
Discuss the differences and similarities between the tractors of today and the tractors of the future generate ideas about the kind of jobs that the robots might need to do. What are the types of tools or features they might need?
1. Introduction (5 mins)
Jennie will open the lesson with a brief introduction to Harper Adams University and to Paula and Megan.
2. Subject knowledge - soil health (5 mins)
Paula will explain that she is an expert in soil health and why healthy soil is really important to farmers.
3. Demonstration (5 mins)
Paula will demonstrate how to identify healthy soil and what happens to soil when a very heavy tractor travels across a field.
4. Subject knowledge - autonomous vehicles (5 mins)
Megan will explain her research into autonomous vehicles and how they can be used in farming. She will explain how she is working on the tools that can be found on them.
5. Activity - choosing the right tool (5 mins)
The children will be asked to choose from a range of tools to extract a ‘weed’ which tools work best and why? Which would be good for the soil, which less so? Which would be good in ensuring the crop stayed healthy at the same time as removing the weeds?
6. Demonstration (5 mins)
Megan will explain and demonstrate the tool she is currently working on that uses lasers to eradicate weeds while protecting the soil and the crops around the weed.
7. Q&A and conclusion (15 mins)
After completing the demonstrations, Paula and Megan will answer some of the questions students have submitted.
Education Manager, National Farmers' Union
Dr Paula Misiewicz
Senior Lecturer in Soil and Water Management, Harper Adams University
Research Associate, Harper Adams University
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