Agriculture: How Engineers Help To Feed Our Families

Food is something that humans require, and Thanksgiving is centered around celebrating the many blessings we have including the food that nourishes us. Without proper engineering around food production, it would be difficult to keep up with the ever growing demands of the population.

Food production around the world has evolved and change extensively since the early 1900s. Since food is a necessity of life and has an impact on the quality of the life we live, we need agricultural engineers to focus on the science behind food and farming. Their main purpose is to ensure the agricultural technologies and methods that we use today can meet the population’s demand for food.

There are a ton of tasks that fall to an agricultural engineer because there are a lot of key components that go into creating a sustainable and healthy crop or food product.

To name a few, irrigation systems and water control is critical to the success of a farm’s yield. Building cost effective yet efficient storage facilities for product is a major task they are charged with as well.

Other than day to day tasks, agricultural engineers also do a lot of research to be on the cutting edge of sustainable farming and food production. They must ensure that their facilities are up to code, and they have to be agile to meet the demands of growing populations and the changing environment.

In addition, agricultural engineers have to work with many other disciplines to achieve their goals such as horticulturalists, agronomists, animal scientists, and geneticists.

To learn more about the engineering behind our food and how you can become an agricultural engineer to support the next generations sustainable food sources, check out the link below.

https://www.environmentalscience.org/career/agricultural-engineer

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Top 3 Ways To Keep Up With Changing Tech

The most exciting thing about technology is that we are constantly outdoing ourselves. Some people are so far ahead in their head that society just cannot understand or keep up. We here at Growin'GEERS like to be up-to-date on exactly what is going on in the technology world, and we wanted to share some of our tips on how we keep up!

 

1. Social Media

Yes, social media can be a pain sometimes in the ways that it distracts us from the moment, burns a bunch of our time, and can be littered with false information, but if you tailor your feeds to your interests and to trusted resources only, it can get a great tool to catch up on the latest tech news quickly! Everyone has their preferred social media platforms, but we have found that instagram is a great way to get your tech fix by following the Techcrunch instagram. We follow tech crunch because they are a huge supporter of startups and disrupting the status quo. They give great tech updates, and keep us up to date on all new innovations with relation to technology.

 

2. Podcasts

Podcasts are a great way to fit in your news while you are doing something else like driving or cooking and are looking for some entertainment. Podcasts are a great way to expose your kids to news while on a long car ride or road trip. Please be aware though that these are media outlets so always screen the content before sharing with your kids as we know how the media likes to take things over the edge sometimes!

 

We love to listen to some amazing tech podcasts that cover the gamut on tech. I highly recommend Rocket which is hosted by 3 powerhouse tech women. We also enjoy Analog(ue) which discusses the perspective of human interaction with new technologies. It is quite interesting. If you are looking for some variety, check out Clockwise which switches up their tech topics frequently and has different industry related guests to keep it moving.

 

3. Blogs/Websites

We read fewer blogs, but the ones that we check to stay up on tech news include The Verge and, of course, Tech Crunch. The Verge has a great homepage where you can quickly browse the topics that interest you, and we find that the Tech Crunch website always has a ton of different content compared to their Instagram. When we are looking for a bit more detail or have some more time to read more detail about a technology that interests us, these are the two pages we turn to.

Hope you enjoy these suggestions!

Social Media

https://www.instagram.com/techcrunch/

Podcasts

https://www.relay.fm/clockwise

https://www.relay.fm/rocket

Blogs/Websites

https://www.theverge.com/

https://techcrunch.com/

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What STEM Isn't

Education is a hot bed for buzzwords and phrases: disruptive technology, digital literacy, MOOC, and the list goes on.. Buzzwords are good and bad. They bring attention to items that we need to be aware of (hence the technology reference in every word we listed above), but they also can be misused to create marketing hype around products and services.

As you probably already know, our favorite buzzword, (buzz acronym really) is STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math). The reason why this buzzword is so near and dear to our hearts is because we believe it encourages the integration of some key areas that are cross functional in the digital or information age. When these four segments are integrated, they can truly create a learning environment that will prepare our students for the careers of the future, many of which may not yet exist.

STEM experiences brings attention to and demonstrate the value of the integration of these four disciplines. Yet, STEM is often referenced in circumstances when only one of the 4 pillars is in use. Can you think of any recent science experiments that you saw online that were referred to as STEM? What about math exercises or worksheets? Or perhaps a building or construction toy that included the STEM acronym in its packaging or marketing? The value that STEM brings is the actual application of these four disciplines to one problem or one exercise; not just a science or math exercise in a silo. The significance of STEM is teaching our students to recognize opportunities to apply science, technology, engineering, and math skills in ways that challenge their critical thinking abilities and prepares them to not be afraid to use a concept or idea differently than how it was originally explained or taught.

Today’s careers, and those of the future, will require our children to apply the skills they are learning now in creative and innovative ways. Adapting their learning to fulfill the demands of the future is what we need to be preparing our children to be able to do. So, how can we enable students to feel comfortable in that regard? We believe it centers around encouraging creativity, critical thinking, and a certain comfort level with failure. And cultivating these skills cannot be done with a set of instructions. Providing students with the answers without encouraging them to ideate and redesign limits the opportunity for students to think critically or challenge any preconceive ideas or prior knowledge. Instructions do not lead to failure, innovation, and creativity. Testing a hypothesis, asking open ended questions, and encouraging redesign creates an environment of innovation.

So, next time you hear the term STEM, ask yourself these questions when trying to decide if the product, service, or activity truly embodies the value that STEM adds to learning:

1. Does it encompass more than 1 discipline from the four pillars of STEM?
2. Is your child engaging his or her problem solving and critical thinking abilities rather than simply following a set of directions?
3. Is your child encouraged to create his or her own solution along with a testing process to know if they were successful or if they should consider modification?
4. Is technology utilized not only in the delivery of the content, but also in how students connect with the problem and complete the task.

If you answered yes to 3+ questions above, the activity likely embodies the foundation of STEM and encourages critical thinking, innovation, and creativity. Stay calm, and STEM on!

*Shout out to @SherylDwyer for the deep discussions and insights on this topic from the perspective of an educator!*

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Be Efficient – Learn How An Engineer Eliminates Waste

A large portion of the Lean process is focused on identifying waste in a process. Why is it so focused on the negative you ask? Well, you can’t eliminate something that you don’t know is there!

Not sure what Lean is? Check out our post on the basics of Lean.

So, we are going to walk you through the 7 forms of waste (or Muda as the Japanese like to say) that we try to identify and eliminate in Lean.

By eliminating waste in a process or in the production of a product, you save time, money, and effort and reach a higher efficiency in whatever you are working to accomplish. These forms of waste can be found in every aspect of work or tasks that we do daily, so look out for these in your daily processes and life and eliminate them!

1. Transportation
This form of waste is by moving product or equipment that is not needed to move during processing.
2. Inventory
Inventory is any part of the product that is not completed. This could be in the form of raw materials, work in process, or a final product that hasn’t been used.
3. Motion
This is the waste that occurs when people or equipment move to much in the process or producing the product. It can lead to physical injury or machine downtime.
4. Waiting
This is any time in the process that the product is waiting to be processed or the process is halted because the next step cannot occur.
5. Over production
When too much of a product or process is available and is not needed. This creates a situation where a product is not changing rapidly with a customers needs.
6. Over-processing
This form of waste is when more is done to a product than is required by the customer’s idea of value.
7. Defects
This is when you have to discard or rework a product or step of a process due to an error or defect.

Want to learn how to find waste in a process? Keep an eye out for more posts about how to apply these concepts!

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5 Ideas To Guarantee A Successful Stargazing Night

Stargazing is great way to connect back with nature and have a fun STEAM experience getting a little closer to our solar system.

Below are 5 tips to have an outstanding star gazing experience and to get to know your solar system a little bit better!

1. Pick a clear night and great location
We know this may sound a bit obvious, but it is a key factor to having a successful stargazing night. Make sure you check the weather continuously up until the night of the watch. If cloud cover pops up, just reschedule. It will not be worth it and may be disheartening to the crew we hope you are bringing along to enjoy it with you!

2. Bring a comfy blanket and some snacks
Star gazing can be a longer activity as the night sky will change over time. If you have little ones, make sure you bring a comfy blanket and pillows. We recommend taking a pickup truck if you have access to one so you can turn the bed of the truck into a cozy stargazing nest! Don't forget to bring snacks and water to keep everyone full and happy!

3. Grab some equipment
If you have one or if you can borrow one, definitely bring a telescope. It will add a layer of insight and depth to your experience that cannot be seen with the naked eye. You can even look at renting them from a local store or facility, but this is just a suggestion; definitely not necessary to have an enjoyable time!

If you are willing to break the bank by spending $2.99, download Sky Guide. When you hold it up to the night sky, it automatically finds stars, constellations, planets, satellites, and more. It is an amazing app and is a cheaper way to add some learning to your stargazing expedition than a telescope.

4. Do some research
I'm sure this one isn't surprising, but do some research before you go. Learn a little bit about constellations and see if your kids have a favorite. Constellations are a great way to combine a lesson on science and mythology. Find answers to the following questions to kick off your research!

A. What is a star made out of?
B. What is the youngest star in our galaxy that we know of?
C. Who is Leo the Lion?
D. What is the story of Orion the hunter?
E. How did constellations and mythology join forces to put a name to our stars?

5. Set a goal
Do a little research in advance, and pick out a constellation to seek out during your trip. Make sure you don't set yourself up for failure. Check that you can see it during the time of year and location that you are in. A great site to use to learn a LOT about constellations, their location, and their history can be found at the link below.

Happy gazing!

Quick Links
Stargazing Apps for IOS and Android

Great Constellation Reference Link

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Best Costume Ever: Be An Engineer For Halloween

Choosing what to be for Halloween can be tough, but it can be a lot of fun to emulate a potential future career as well!

Help your budding engineer surprise their class or the entire neighborhood with his/her engineering-focused costume! 

Follow our question map to decide what is the best type of engineer to be, and follow our instructions on putting together the perfect engineering costume!

Keep those engineering dreams alive by helping your child feel like an engineer!

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5 Ways To Get Your Student Thinking Like An Engineer

Ever wanted to provide your child with the opportunity to do more critical thinking, problem solving, and mathematics throughout their normal life? Take a look at our 5 tips for getting your student to think more like an engineer!

GET HANDS ON

So, this one is rather obvious, but it must be mentioned for two reasons. Firstly, hands-on activities are a great way to engage young engineers in listening and learning about STEM. It keeps them interested and engaged, and it relates back to an engineering career. Secondly, it gets them thinking creatively about what is in their hands.

In addition, it is important for the hands-on activity to be done in the context of education. Hands-on tinkering is not as easy to retain if there is no reasoning or purpose behind it. Go to a museum and take advantage of the hands-on activities that are surrounded by connections and descriptions on why that activity relates to the world (example would be a plasma globe to learn about the basics of electricity such as currents and a ground).

Encourage your child to tinker with things at home. Buy an old radio from a garage sale and take it apart. Ask them for help when you are assembling a new toy, some furniture from Ikea or a new purchase from Amazon. Get them involved when the toilet breaks or the sink is leaking. Understanding how things come apart and the different options for putting them back together can broaden a young engineer’s mind. In addition, challenging them to do things outside of their day to day lessons can boost their confidence. And I’m sure you would love the help!

DAILY INQUIRY

Inquire after how your child’s mind works. Ask them how they think your telephone works. Ask them how clean water is able to run into our homes. Ask them how the Brita is able to make water cleaner than it already was. Point out things in your hometown or community that relate to engineering, and get their opinion on it. Bridges, tugboats, farming equipment, or motorcycles are all good examples. Take the time to pull the car over, stop for a second, and take a look. Have a discussion about the challenges that some engineer must have encountered in creating these day to day solutions that have become totally normal for us. It is incredibly effective to get students to start to make the connection between their daily lives and the concepts they are learning when we point them out and discuss them on a regular basis.

PARTICIPATION IN DAILY CALCULATIONS

Engineering is all about calculation. From balancing chemical equations to completing a detailed statistical analysis, a math mentality is always a skill set that is valued. So, start asking your child to participate in your daily calculations. Ask them to calculate the tip when you go out to dinner. Ask them to figure out the change needed for the toll plaza that is coming up on the highway. Challenge them to add up what your buying on your grocery trip and make a game of guessing how much the bill will be (don’t forget tax!). Thinking in numbers is a necessity as an engineer, so let’s get our students thinking about numbers in our daily chores and activities.

VOLUNTEER

Engineering is not only about STEM, but it’s about giving back to your community and working as a team. The best engineers are considered the best because they gave their knowledge, expertise, and experience back to the world. So, it is important for us to show our budding engineers the value in giving back. For an engineering-focused volunteer opportunity, I always recommend Habitat for Humanity. It exists in communities all over the country, it attracts engineering-minded people with skill sets that pertain to construction, and it is fun! Call your local organization to let them know you have young children that may be interested, but they usually have activities that can apply for all age levels.

KEEP UP WITH IT

In our current world, change is happening around every corner. Take time with your child to keep up with the engineering innovations that are adding value and changing lives for the better. Below are a few engineering news resources for you and your family to utilize to stay on the cutting edge of what is happening in industries such as healthcare, construction, and energy. The engineering that we know will not be the engineering our children know, so we need to support them to always be looking to the future while still appreciating the lessons we have learned in our past.

https://www.sciencedaily.com/news/matter_energy/engineering/
http://www.enr.com/
http://www.engineeringnews.co.za/

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How To Create A Maker's Space In Your Community

Maker's spaces are all the rage. They give our youth a place to learn and explore while also forming a sense of community. Below are a couple quick tips on how to get one started in your local community!

What Is The Best Location?

Put it in a library. Libraries are changing in how they serve our communities and our schools. Libraries are a great location to build a space for innovation and creativity. Make sure you have a large open space. Tables and chairs are not necessary but can be added depending on the users of the space. Ideally, it would be great to have multiple computers within reach of your space which is another reason why a library is a great place to build your maker’s space.

What Do I Need?

Start simple! Take donations of tech or machinery that is no longer being used by members of the community. Ask parents or local companies to donate old tools and equipment. There is no donation that is too small to add value to your new space. Even non-traditional items such as sewing machines, VCRs, or lights can add value. You don’t need to have a brand new 3D printer to give students a space to be creative and to think outside of the box.

How Should I Regulate It?

The best thing about a maker’s space is that it can be whatever you want it to be. And even ocne you figure that out, it can take on a life of it’s own once it has started and can become bigger and better than you ever imagined. Growin’GEERS recommends limiting the rules at the beginning. Make it a place where students can come and create their own solutions and ideas. Make it a place where our young innovators can bring their act on their imagination.

If you feel you want to have a goal or a theme, add a white board with a weekly challenge for students to try and accomplish before the end of the week. Ask them to create a solution that can move something a certain distance. Start simple and make the challenges more complex as your students become more comfortable with working in the space!

How Do I Explain It To Others?

Introduce it to students as a place to be innovative. Encourage them to get their feet wet in engineering, and invite them to research concepts that they want to learn about and use this space to explore them with the materials they have. The best way to explain it to other parents is as a safe space for students to educate and challenge themselves outside of their traditional lessons. It is a new twist on education, and it is a great way to put our students in charge of what they create and what they learn when they spend time in this space. Over time, the results of what comes out of your maker’s space will speak for itself.

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WINNER OF ONE SPARK 2015 JURIED AWARD FOR EDUCATION

Growin'GEERS was voted the winner of One Spark 2015 in the Education Category. The Growin'GEERS team spent the week sharing its curriculum with the Jacksonville community. We are so happy to revisit this amazing time for the company and how this award helped us to increase the number of quests we had available to better serve our customers! Check out additional details in an article featured by News4Jax below.

Thanks again One Spark!

 

THE SCIENCE BEHIND REDESIGNING FOOTBALL HELMETS

Football season is upon us, and it is an exciting time for all the fans, Fantasy Football experts, and players. While football is an exciting sport to watch, it can be dangerous for the players due to the large amount of body to body and head to head contact that the game is known for. 

The NFL and other football organizations have been making an effort to make the game safer. The design of new football helmets to decrease the damage done to a player’s brain is due to the hard work of mechanical engineers.

When a player hits another player, the kinetic energy needs to transfer from one player to another. If all that energy is directed at the helmet, the helmet is taking on that kinetic energy and passing it through to the next surface: the skull. The skull is then passing it on to the brain which in turn may cause the brain to hit the inside of the skull causing damage.

Bike helmets are traditionally designed a little differently to crush or break which takes on some of the kinetic energy.

Read more about how they are adjusting the football helmets below!

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