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Robots rise up at Extension meeting

March 18, 2015
Robots were the name of the game during the annual Crawford County Extension board's annual meeting and breakfast on Saturday at the Crawford County 4-H Community Park south of Marengo.

Seth Carlise gives a demonstration of his elephant robot made out of LEGOs at Saturday morning's Crawford County Extension board annual meeting. Photo By Leslie Radcliff
Sarah Colglazier, along with Michael Carlisle and his son, Seth, gave a lesson on how robotics is becoming more mainstream and revolutionizing everything from the classrooms in which students learn to the fields where farmers work.

"We are currently using robots in our schools today," Colglazier said. "And you can imagine that it's not an overwhelming abundance because they're expensive, but they are using them to enhance understanding of concepts."

Colglazier said that robots have been proven to help student engagement and participation.

"Some robots can read to the students; others project an object into the air for them to see how a mathematical concept works," she said. "(Students) get a better understanding of the concepts that are being taught."

"Studies have shown that girls typically do not have an interest in robots when they look like cars as they do when they look like dolls," Colglazier said. "So, different types of robots are important to student engagement."

She also showed a video about the advancements robotics have had on the farming industry in Indiana.

Dairy farms have been benefiting from Automatic Milking Systems, also sometimes known as Voluntary Milking Systems. These systems rely on the use of computers and herd management software.

"I was amazed to learn that this was local," she said. "This farm is in Indiana."

According to the video, this is beneficial because the cows decide when they want to be milked outside of normal milking times, cutting down on injury and stress to the animal.

The herd management software also weighs the animal and evaluates the milk output for anything that may have tainted the batch. If a problem is detected, the robot automatically disposes of that batch of milk, ensuring that not only does the cow receive the proper attention, but that any tainted output does not get dumped into a larger hold and ruin the entire production.

Michael Carlisle, whose son, Seth, is into robotics and hopes eventually to fly drones for the military, gave a demonstration of Seth's own robot elephant.

"These aren't just for fun," Carlisle said, pointing out that robots are prevalent in factories and the medical field, as well as farms and schools.

Seth's demonstration of his LEGO-based robotics kit was a hit.

"I can use my iPad to control the head, make it move back and forth or turn in circles," Seth, an eighth-grader at Crawford County Junior High School, said.

"It's actually a step-by-step on how to put the robot together," the elder Carlisle said. "It took us three hours to build, but there's also much simpler ones that we can use for younger kids."

Both Carlisles are interested in creating a county-wide robotics group and say that the LEGO kits are, by far, the most cost-effective, but admitted that, at nearly $400 per base kit and $100 per expansion kit, the cost is still prohibitive to most every student within the county.

"This kit was donated, and I purchased the elephant expansion kit myself," Carlisle said. "But we really need several more in order to effectively teach students how these work, because I can only work with one or two students at a time, and they are very popular when we take them into the schools."

Currently, Jason Caudill, the new county Extension educator, is seeking to assist Carlisle and Colglazier in their endeavors to create a county group for robotics by working with Purdue University.

"This is what 4-H is all about," he said. "Head, hands, health and heart — this combines all of that."

But, it may take more than just Caudill working with Purdue.

"We understand that these are costly and we're looking at all of our options," Carlisle said. "We want this to work for the kids, because it can give them a usable skill and keep them engaged throughout their elementary and high school years."

In other Extension news, five seats were up for grabs on the Extension board, and they were given in short order to Faye Trambaugh, Cindy McCracken, Troy Mason, Rollin Bach and Rhonda Adams.

Also, Caudill said he is working with local community members to bring a farmer's market to the county. He handed out a survey with questions like, "What would you expect to pay?" and "What is your favorite memory of a farmer's market?"

"We're hoping to work with the one already established and grow it," he said, citing how a local farmer's market can help to stimulate the local community.

Copies of the survey are available at the Extension Office in English.

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