The Automated Farmer

Last Updated:2/6/2023

EAST students from Sonora Middle School are creating a motion sensor device that sprays cattle with a disinfecting spray to prevent illness by coding an Arduino device.

Agriculture is big business in Arkansas, and one farmer in the northwest part of the state is finding it increasingly difficult to care for his cattle as he becomes older. Fortunately, a group of EAST students from Sonora Middle School is programming a device to make his job a bit easier.

Several seventh graders have been working on the project since the beginning of the 2021-2022 school year, including Jetta Warford, Rebecca Biggs, Hatty Galvan, and Ahnaleigh Grace.

The students are designing a device that can sense the movement of a cow walking underneath it, and release bug spray on the cow to protect it from mosquitos and other insects.

“We have a client named Eugene and he works in selling and trading cows and he’s been having issues with his cows getting infected by insects that bite them,” Jetta said. “We’re trying to code a motion sensor in Arduino so that when a cow walks through the gate, it’ll be sprayed with a disinfectant.”

Jetta said she’s led the charge on coding the motion sensing capabilities of the device with Arduino, an open-source microcontroller that serves as the foundation for “The Automated Farmer” project.

“I’ve been doing most of the coding in Arduino, while the rest of my team has primarily worked on putting together the physical device," Jetta said.

The code for detecting cows isn’t the only thing the team has to worry about, as placing the Arduino device in an outside environment while unprotected is not sustainable.

“Right now, if we put the device outside it would quickly become fried if it rains or snows,” Hatty said. “So we’re having to make a cover for it by using our 3D printer. We initially wanted to create a design that looked like a hand, but realized that a creative design was more trouble than it was worth.”

The group is opting to go with more of a minimalist rectangular design that will simply protect the device from the elements and allow “The Automated Farmer’ to detect cattle and spray them with disinfectant.

Of course, electronic devices don’t last forever; so the group has decided how they plan on powering the device in a way that is best for their community partner.

“We are going to make the battery rechargeable so if it goes out, it should be easy and cost-efficient for Eugene to use the same battery for a long time,” Ahnaleigh said.

Before tackling this project, Heidi says she and many other members of the group had zero experience with coding, and that its involvement was one of the primary reasons why she wanted to get involved.

“I hadn’t ever worked in coding before this project, so I was excited to work on something that gave me that opportunity,” Hatty said. “We struggled a lot during the first few months until we all came together and communicated what problems we were having. That helped us break through and make real progress.”

Jetta says that every girl on the team tends to like having a position of leadership on teams, which forced everyone to learn how to work together even when conversations became “snappy”.

“This has taught me a lot of patience because we all have traits of leaders,” Jetta said. “So we’ve had to learn how to make compromises and really put our heads down to focus on getting things done instead of worrying about our pride as much.”

The teams said the rough draft of the project is almost done and that they plan on visiting Eugene’s farm soon to test it out. They are already looking into making improvements like expanding the detection range of the motion sensor.

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