|Biosystems & Ag Engineering
How Does Your
With People, Programs & Partnerships
Its not your fathers agricultural engineering
department anymore. But not to worry
this is a good thing.
From a 1950s focus on farm machinery (now machine systems automated engineering), the Department of Biosystems and Engineering (BAE) has expanded to include bioenvironmental engineering, thermal environmental engineering, and food and bioprocess engineering.
Impressive, right? But what does it all mean? It means that researchers are working on tractors that can drive themselves; machines that will pinpoint the section of your field that needs more nitrogen than the rest and apply it only there; and ways to fuel motor vehicles that will not harm the environment.
It also means that todays BAE is working on the future, looking ahead based on a solid foundation of people, programs, and partnerships.
From early leaders like Blaine Parker, through such framers as John Walker, Joe Ross, Linus Walton, and now Larry Turner, student enrollment has increased and become more diverse, multi-cultural, and academically superior to similar programs around the United States. All this hasnt happened by itself.
Build, and They Will Come
A great facility does not necessarily a great department make. But the modern and relatively new building that houses BAE has definitely played a part in the growing strength of the department.
Turner said that before 1990, BAE facilities were fairly antiquated. The new building has brought a dramatic increase in national recognition and the ability to do many things not possible before.
Walton echoes that attitude. When we moved in 1990, our enrollment started to blossom because our facilities are state-of-the art and as good as there are in the country, said Walton, who is now associate dean for administration for the College of Agriculture. The building is 11 years old, and its still state-of-the-art. I think thats a tribute to our engineers who worked with the architects, to have one they felt would be the best for a long time.
The building was named this spring after retired dean Charles E. Barnhart, who led the UK College of Agriculture for 19 years and played a vital role in securing funding and providing administrative guidance for the buildings construction.
Walton said he doubts theres ever been a building built on the UK campus where the faculty had such involvement as BAE engineers did, noting that similar departments around the country come to UK to tour the C.E. Barnhart Building before starting construction at their own institution.
Something to Brag About
If a departments success can be tied to the quality of students it attracts, BAE has nothing to worry about. The departments most significant bragging rights stem from five National Science Foundation Fellows choosing the department for graduate study.
And Turner and Walton dont mind exercising those bragging rights.
We are the only department of biosystems and agricultural engineering, or similar program, in the United States to receive such an honor, Turner said. Having these brilliant graduate students in our program is a tribute to the faculty and students of the department, as well as to the College and to UK.
Im proud to say Ive had every one of them [NSF Fellows] in class, Walton said. Ive enjoyed them immensely.
In 2000, BAE added 25 undergraduate students with an average ACT composite score of more than 27, proving the department is attracting top academic talent.
Each year student members of the American Society of Agricultural Engineers enter a design competition for which they design and build a quarter-scale pulling tractor, roughly the size of a lawn tractor, and take it to a national meeting. Each tractor costs more than $10,000 to build.
It allows students to see their design and analyze it in terms of engineering components, the economy, the manufacturer, and the efficiency of the materials used to construct the project, said Scott Shearer, associate professor in BAE and agricultural engineer. Then they get to go into the shop and actually fabricate the tractor. They get their hands dirty to see what it takes to manufacture their project.
The national competition includes a written and oral component as well as a tractor pull to actually put the tractor to work, all judged by professional engineers.
Employers love students who have the experience of being involved in a project from start to finish putting it together, testing it, prototyping it, and doing all the things theyll be doing as engineers when they graduate and work in industry, said Turner.
Behind Every Great Student . . .
Turner attributes much of the departments academic successes to the impact of a great faculty and staff, many of whom are recognized nationally and internationally.
Case in point: Don Colliver, who recently became the first president-elect of the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air Conditioning Engineers to come from the agricultural engineering discipline.
He developed design data for ASHRAE that all engineers use for designing heating and cooling loads throughout the world, said Walton. With 63,000 members, ASHRAE is one of the largest engineering organizations. Thats a feather in his cap.
Its not out of the ordinary for BAE faculty to be nationally recognized for their teaching and research. For example, in 2000 alone, Dwayne Edwards, professor, received the ASAE New Holland Young Researcher Award; Sue Nokes, associate professor, received the ASAE A.W. Farrall Young Educator Award as well as the UK Chancellors Outstanding Teacher Award for non-tenured faculty; and Tim Stombaugh, assistant Extension professor, received an ASAE award for a paper titled Guidance Control of Agricultural Vehicles at High Field Speeds.
Turner doesnt take credit for assembling the group of accolade-collecting faculty. Its people like Blaine Parker, John Walker, Joe Ross, and Linus Walton who made this department what it is today. They recruited great people, and these awards showcase that, he said.
Research and Outreach A Strong Past,
Cutting-edge technology and research have been the hallmark of BAE. UK agricultural engineers were the ones who developed the first pasture renovator, the SEDCAD model for erosion control, and several tobacco production aids.
We also had some success in tobacco research, Walton recalled, somewhat tongue-in-cheek. A team of Extension specialists and researchers from agronomy and BAE worked with farmers and industry cooperatives to develop baling of burley as a viable system. That is a breakthrough that saves a nickel a pound on the tobacco a farmer strips out there. Even in todays market of reduced poundages, that translates to $10 million annually.
Walton also said UK developed the methodology for curing tobacco outside under plastic without ever having to go to the barn, a system used all over the burley belt now.
According to Turner, the department traditionally has been strong in agriculturally related areas, like soil and water. Department faculty remain strong in programs in mine reclamation and similar subjects.
Precision agriculture is a research area in which BAE has taken center stage. Scott Shearer leads a College-wide group of researchers, working across such disciplines as BAE, agronomy, ag economics, and several others.
Precision ag is something a lot of people around the country have thought is only for big farms, but thats not the case; it has a lot to do with smaller farms as well, Turner said. Across the world theres more and more interest in GIS (geographic information systems), GPS (global positioning systems), farm-to-table tracking and its not only for economics but also for avoiding environmental problems.
Precision agriculture affords a number of advantages that can save time and money. For starters, it can help the farmer minimize inputs and minimize chemical applications. It can optimize application of chemicals and fertilizers for spots just where its needed, as well as pinpoint the best land for certain crops.
The Ag Weather Center has turned into a major outreach effort for BAE. The Internet-based service provides ag weather information to 12 states, and the Web site gets over one million hits a month, according to Turner.
Other important research is being conducted in ground water modeling, solid phase fermentation, nutrient management, water systems and quality, biotechnology, bioprocessing, food engineering, and more.
BAE also collaborates with preventive medicine and health to look at tractor roll-over protection and rotary mower designs that include safety features.
Turner asserts that applying the research and knowledge from BAE in the state would be good for Kentuckys economy. We could draw companies to locate here using our research and technology, which could create many jobs in the state.
BAEs Hand in Establishing Farm Machinery Show
It began in a small Lexington tobacco warehouse in 1963 and has grown into a giant exhibition occupying one million square feet of the Kentucky Fair and Exposition Center. The National Farm Machinery Show annually features more than 800 exhibitors showing off the latest, most innovative and high-tech agricultural equipment in the nation. And BAE was involved at ground level.
In the late 1950s, the department was part of a joint project with electric cooperatives to educate farmers and students about electricity on the farm. Department chair Blaine Parker (his tenure would stretch from the late 50s to the early 70s) was interested in preserving that relationship.
So they planned an electricity demonstration and exhibit for farmers at a warehouse in west Lexington around 1963. Within two years it had grown to encompass more than electricity.
The organizing committee wanted to expand it into a larger farm show to include all agricultural areas, Parker said. I told them if they wanted to attract farm people from outside Kentucky, we ought to call it the National Farm Machinery Show.
The concept caught on, attracting farm machinery giant Allis Chalmers as its first major exhibitor.
The show was officially named in 1966; its name and focus have not changed since. The sole purpose of the show is and always was to provide an education to farmers, Parker added.
BAE still plays a role in the show. Among the hundreds of exhibits for farm equipment, seeds, chemicals, and livestock supplies, representatives from BAE set up their own exhibit and showcase programs, research, and student projects. Visitors get to see new technology and talk to faculty and staff from the College of Agriculture.
It gives us exposure to the general public and allows students to take a look at what we are involved in. Its also a chance to recruit those students to the College of Agriculture, said Carl King, shop supervisor for BAE. Were trying to show the public what were doing for agriculture in Kentucky."
Outstanding achievements among BAE students and faculty are recognized each year through scholarships and awards funded by donor contributions. Their highest honor is the Frank Woeste Award, named for a BAE alumnus who is now a professor at Virginia Tech. The $2,000 award is for an undergraduate who ranks first or second in his or her class with two semesters left before graduation.
BAEs most recent gift is a significant contribution from retired BAE professor and former chair Joe Ross. Ross and his wife, Sue, have made the College of Agriculture the beneficiary of a charitable remainder trust. Upon their death, the trust will create the Joe and Sue Ross Endowed Fund in BAE. The funds income will annually be used to support faculty, students, lectureships, seminars, travel, and other activities to enhance the departments reputation of excellence.
The Edith Walton Scholarship is offered in memory of Linus Waltons mother. No restrictions are placed on the $1,200 annual award. BAE faculty determine where the award will make the most difference and have the most benefit.
Other awards, including the James Bryant Scholarship, Mid-America Equipment Retailers, Alpha Epsilon Scholarships, Outstanding Teacher Award, and the Outstanding Senior Leadership Award, are all ways the department honors the excellence of its students and faculty.
No matter how much state support we receive, its these kinds of awards that let us do those extra things, Turner said. They let us do things that make us a great department, not just a good department. For more information on how to support BAE scholarships, contact Turner at email@example.com.
A Look Into the Crystal Ball
Turner said hed like most to see BAE make a difference with people in the Commonwealth, and the timing is right.
Were at an exciting time right now. Weve got a new University president who is really focused on how we can help UK benefit Kentucky, Turner emphasized. We need to take our research to the people. We think we have a lot of the areas in our department that are really critical to the state right now.
Turner said they also want to take their research and ideas to people at national and international levels.
We are one of the best-kept secrets nationally and internationally, he said. We want to focus on how to get the awareness level where we know it should be. On a national level, weve started a new newsletter. On an international basis, were trying to create some linkages.
Over the next 20 years, Turner believes anything dealing with the environment is going to be important. Restoration is important. Going beyond the farm gate is important. Tracking back from consumer to producer is important.
There are things that make a difference all along the food chain, Turner added. How can we hasten the adaptation of research information to the field and to industry in the state and beyond?
Basically, it all comes back down to people, programs and partnerships.
We have great people already; we need to maintain that, Turner said. We must continue to provide programs to serve traditional agriculture, as well as expand our efforts beyond the farm gate. We have to keep forming and maintaining partnerships within our department, within the College, and also with people in industry and clientele on the farms.
By participating in internships and projects in industry, BAE students enhance their learning experience and gain skills that make them more employable. Angela Smart Penn, BAE grad and TRANE employee, worked with a team of BAE seniors last semester to improve air handler design for TRANE. The students have developed a new passive approach using a baffle that will save money and improve the product.
As a student I was an active member of both ASAE and ASHRAE (the American Society of Heating, Refrigerating, and Air-Conditioning Engineers). These organizations allowed me to enhance my leadership and team-building skills. Because of their networking opportunities I was successful in finding a job when I graduated. And Im still an active ASHRAE member today, continuing my professional development through a group my professors introduced me to. Im proof that a degree in biosystems and agricultural engineering offers exciting career opportunities!
Angela Penn 96
When we moved in 1990, our enrollment started to blossom because our facilities are state-of-the art and as good as there are in the country.
A group of students from Biosystems and Agricultural Engineering
brought home an impressive collection of seven awards from the 2001
Quarter-Scale Tractor Competition.
The Wildcat Pulling Team took top awards for design in the categories of Appearance, Craftsmanship, Serviceability, and Safety. In addition, they showed their versatility by winning the Sportsmanship Award as well as the Cook-Off Award.
In the X-Team (junior team) competition, UK won third place.
UK narrowly missed a top-five finish in the championship competition, with Kansas State Universitys team walking off with its third straight victory. Twenty-six collegiate teams competed, including one from as far away as Malaysia.
Members of this years Wildcat Pulling Team were Ryan Figgins, Adam Garrison, Tim Greis, Jeremy Hudson, Wanda Jones, Brandon McDonald, Jonathon Mirgeaux, Matt Peake, and Eric Wooldridge. Team advisors were Scott Shearer, Tim Smith, Tim Stombaugh, and Larry Wells.
If you would like to learn more about the Wildcat Pulling Team, or about how you can help support these students, visit their Web site at: www.bae.uky.edu/qscale/.