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Agricultural Engineering

7 minutes

(Describer) Light brown stalks wave in a large field. A sign says "cattle crossing". Title: Stem Career Lab - Designing Your Future. A Caution sign has a picture of someone on a tractor. Large domes stand by other equipment. Someone presses buttons on a control pad.

(Describer) A coffee cup has the brand Ecotainer. Titles: Stem Career Lab: Designing Your Future. Agricultural Engineering: What is it? Kenya Crosson, Ph. D.:

An agricultural engineer is an engineer that utilizes science and math, just like other engineers. But with agricultural engineering, the focus is primarily on design of agricultural systems-- so, things related to farming practices. Agricultural engineering, it's pretty unique because it combines all the other engineering fields with aspects of biological sciences and ecology, and puts those together to improve and produce food.

(Crosson) They apply those skills and those concepts towards managing agricultural systems and also managing biological systems.

(Describer) Different grasses surround a small pond.

(Describer) Title: Agricultural Engineering - Why is It Important? Jay Martin, Ph. D.:

There's three main problems that confront society today: producing enough energy for a growing population, producing enough food for a growing population, and maintaining environmental quality so we can sustain the ecosystem services that support us. Agricultural engineers are going to be leaders in solving these problems. Agricultural engineering is very important for everyone

(Describer) Chet Alkiewicz:

because the engineering allows us to provide sustainable plant-based products. New ways to do cropping or grow crops,

(Describer) Crosson:

and using minimal chemicals and fertilizers, and those types of things are very important.

(Describer) A tractor pulls a wagon that sprays a field. Title: Agricultural Engineers - What Do they Do? Alkiewicz:

Here at International Paper we are always looking at different ways to apply these sustainable plant-based products in developing our own products. One project I was fortunate to work on was the latest generation of the ecotainer cup, in which we were able to apply a new type of plastic coating. I was involved in the selection of that material and in modifying our equipment in our production plant to be able to run this new type of bioplastic.

(Describer) Title: Bio plastics are plastics derived from renewable resources like corn and vegetable oils. Martin:

The project I'm currently working on is developing smaller-scale portable digesters for dairy farms that have about 200 cows on them in the United States.

(Describer) Title: A methane digester transforms manure into energy.

I guess our overall goal is to help smaller farmers, smaller dairy farmers-- 150-cow farmers, give or take-- realize the benefits of anaerobic digestion.

(Describer) A process in which microorganisms break down biodegradable materials.

So, anaerobic digestion can produce energy. It can produce good fertilizer, and it can reduce pathogens. Right now those type of benefits are only realizable for large farms. We're trying to develop technologies at the right scale that's affordable for smaller-scale farmers so they can realize those benefits also.

(Describer) Four cows stand at a fence, one with its head through it. Title: Agricultural Engineering - What Are the Opportunities?

When you look at job opportunities, there's a lot, especially in the bioenergy field. In particular, there's large methane digesters in Ohio. There's bioethanol facilities in Ohio. There's wind farms. A lot of our graduates work in the food industry and in water quality, protecting environmental health. A lot of our students work in government settings. How do you manage the wastewater for a city? Design sewers for a city?

(Describer) A bridge crosses one of several round, open water tanks. Title: Agricultural Engineering - How to prepare. Crosson:

I always had an interest in science and also in math. I always suggest to any student that's interested in engineering, especially agricultural engineering, that you really should continue to take math throughout high school. It's important to have that base of math and science

(Describer) Martin:

so that, when you go to college, you can specialize in classes related to animal science, to the biology of microorganisms. You need that basis you get from high school. It's important to not just have the math and the science, but the biology and ecology.

(Describer) Ecology is the science of living organisms as they relate to each other and the natural environment.

So, where biology talks about animals, math talks about equations, and science talks about chemicals, ecology puts those together to look at how a system works. And chemistry,

(Describer) Crosson:

understanding how reactions-- balancing reactions, being able to take certain reactions that will take place with chemistry. That's something you could use on a regular basis. If you're working in agricultural engineering and doing a lot of design of structures for agricultural buildings, you'll need those math skills related to physics to understand forces and those behaviors.

(Describer) Title: Agricultural Engineering - Who is a good fit? Martin:

This career would appeal to people who are interested in natural systems, being outside in the natural environment. A lot of the things I do are outside, looking at, how do you merge human society with the environment? We need people who like the natural environment but also understand engineering and human systems to merge those two together. So, people who have the interest of engineering coupled with the natural environment are well suited to be agricultural engineers.

(Describer) A black and white woodpecker stands on a tree branch and pecks at it. Titles: Produced by ThinkTV, with support from eTech Ohio. Copyright 2012. Accessibility provided by the US Department of Education.

Accessibility provided by the U.S. Department of Education.

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Agricultural engineers explain their work and how they use biology and engineering to make farms energy efficient and the food supply safe and plentiful. They describe what drew them to this profession and also discuss their education and career paths.

Media Details

Runtime: 7 minutes

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