COUNTY—Four young agricultural enthusiasts from diverse 4-H clubs in Wayne County have answered the call for the second annual 4-H Science of Ag Challenge, looking to develop a new technology to keep farmers safe in their fields.
Returning to the Wayne County Science of Ag Team this year is Brianna Metschulat of the Explorers 4-H Club in Hamlin.
Joining her this year are newcomers, Paige Gries of Laurella 4-H in the Torrey area, and Clara Murphy and Eoghan Murphy of the Pleasnat Mount Go-Getters 4-H club.
Together the quartet, along with advisors Jessica Scull and Mary Ann Curtis, were tasked with finding a problem pervading their agricultural community and devise a solution for it.
Outlining the issue, Metschulat explained on farms, “There's a lot of people around here that don't have good cell service or there's older people or kids that don't have phones...”
She further noted, “They're going out on their own and you don't know if they're ok and there's no way to contact them unless somebody else goes out to the barn right after them...”
To resolve this problem, Eoghan explained “We wanted to make a device for farmers who, if they get hurt and they don't have their phones with them or they don't get cell service, to be able to get help.”
He noted the team came up with a pendant design that could be worn around the neck or on one's belt, or even like a watch around one's wrist as Clara added.
The device would have four buttons, each primed with a different message to relay back to a receiver in the farmhouse which has a screen to read out the message or could in-turn transmit the message via mobile app to someone who can get help if needed.
Messages would relay information regarding personal injury, machinery failure, livestock emergency and a fourth button to let loved ones know the farmer is delayed in returning but nothing is wrong.
The team started working on the project in January, aiming to have the concept solidified by the Regional Showcase on April 13 and a complete project plan together, if not a prototype, by the Science of Agriculture Challenge Competition on June 19-21.
There, they'll present their project against at least 15 other teams from across the state who have been working on similar issues in the ag industry.
Eoghan stated the group so far has been looking into material costs and has plotted out how the system will function.
“We haven't started building or modeling yet, but we have the groundwork,” he said.
The team distributed surveys to attendees of last month's Ag Day, looking to gauge feedback on their proposal.
The group had over 120 surveys returned that day.
Gries reported the data so far showed “...most people over 60 didn't really have phones, and most of them had larger farms,” supporting the team's thesis.
She noted the data also showed most would be willing to spend between $20 and $50 for such a device.
Gries noted there is yet more room for better data to be collected as the 21-30 demographic was under-represented in the data received at Ag Day.
The survey is still active and data is still a crucial part of the project, explained Scull.
Wayne County farmers who were not able to complete a survey at Ag Day are asked to do so at: https://pennstate.qualtrics.com/WayneCounty4-HSOA2019.
More information is available by contacting Scull at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Ag Day also fortuitously brought the team in contact with local maker and tech enthusiast Anthony Komar who offered to aid the 4-Hers in developing their project.
Komar noted he was impressed by the concept and has been walking the 4-Hers through open-source software to realize their idea.
“We got to the fun part last week where we started sketching out blocks where the components would be and discussing the parts that we would consider for the prototype,” said Komar.
The team are all excited to be a part of the team and develop solutions to agricultural issues.
Clara energetically noted “It's fun!” and Eoghan, the resident programming enthusiast, added it was “good so far.”
Gries added she's excited to be a part of the team in future years as well.
Returning this year, Metschulat noted “I like this topic a little bit more. I think it's going to reach a lot more people and be a lot more helpful.”
She added her experience last year has been a boon in this year's project development.
Scull noted the team “has been eager and enthusiastic since the beginning” regarding their project.
“I think that they're doing a really great job,” said Scull, noting their enthusiasm, “is really showing through in their work that their putting in and the dedication that they do have.”
Scull added, “It's just such a great program that they're entering into at the state level.
More information about the 4-H program is available by calling the PennState Extension (570-253-5970 ext. 4110) or online at: https://extension.psu.edu/programs/4-h.
Those looking to complete the Science of Ag Team's survey can do so here: https://pennstate.qualtrics.com/WayneCounty4-HSOA2019.