Don Johnson

Don Johnson, professor in the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville, demonstrates the six-axis robot being incorporated into the curriculum for agricultural systems technology management.

A unique Tyson Foods grant will benefit the Department of Agricultural Education, Communications and Technology at the University of Arkansas at Fayetteville.

The grant is for a robot that will be used in many agricultural systems and technology courses. Tyson awards the grant to nine schools around the state to encourage student engagement in science, technology, engineering and math.

Don Johnson, agricultural systems professor, said the robot will be used in existing classes, as well as an upcoming special topics class on agricultural industrial robotics.

"Robots are often used in industry," Johnson said. "This class will help prepare students to use them in the workforce."

The programmable six-axis robot can be programmed through a touchpad or software. In industry, similar robots are often used for palletizing or welding. Industrial robotics technology continues to evolve and is being increasingly used in the food processing industry. It is just now appearing in secondary agricultural education.

Students will become familiar with the machine to use in industry or to use as a teaching tool.

The agricultural systems and technology management concentration in AECT stays up to date on precision agriculture technologies and other industrial machines such as drones, irrigation methods, robotics and GPS automated systems.

"If it is something technologically related and relevant, we use it and teach it," Johnson said.

Johnson attended a training through ABB, the manufacturing company for the robot, to gain further knowledge on the system's operations. Rodney Ellis, a technical education liaison with Tyson Foods, coordinated the training workshop. Ellis is a UAF and Bumpers College graduate in agricultural education, communication and technology.

The grant from Tyson is equivalent to $50,000. Along with the robot, Tyson donated 100 copies of software programming.

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