Agtech robots in schools

Regional  students are learning how to program and operate Digital Farmhand Robots in a new program aimed at closing the digital divide between the city and the bush. Ten NSW regional high schools will participate in the $1.3 million Ag Robotics STEM Program, allowing them to be at the forefront of changing agricultural practices.

Minister for Primary Industries, Niall Blair, launched the program at Canobolas Rural Technology High School in Orange where students took control of this highly innovative farm machinery for the first time.

“This program will educate, excite and inspire young people through interactive, hands-on learning, including coding and operating the robots by remote control,” Mr Blair said.

“These robots will give students the confidence and an understanding of how new technologies can be applied to solve real-world problems. The agricultural communities where the program is taking place can be confident that their next generation is receiving the most relevant education possible.”

The program was developed by The University of Sydney’s Australian Centre for Field Robotics and is currently being run in Orange, Dubbo and Junee.

The Digital Farmhand is a small tractor-like robot that uses low-cost sensors and manufacturing techniques. Farmers can easily maintain and alter the platform to suit their needs and a hitch mechanism allows the attachment of various implements like a seeder, sprayer or weeder.

Parliamentary Secretary for Western NSW, Rick Colless said the initaitive will open the eyes of students in regional and rural schools to the wonders of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics) and the career opportunities it can provide.

“These students are experiencing first-hand ways in which innovative thinking is changing every aspect of our lives, particularly the potential of new digital technology to transform agriculture,” Mr Colless said.

“Digital agriculture will be an important area for jobs of the future; this is allowing rural students to experience its benefits today. My hope is that many of these children will now be driven to pursue a STEM career with that goal in mind.”

The Ag Robotics STEM Program is being funded by the Office of the NSW Chief Scientist & Engineer.