Five Innovation Grants Awarded by eXtension – More Than 90 Proposals Submitted

Five projects have been selected from more than 90 proposals submitted for funding through the eXtension Foundation Innovation Lab. The projects span many of the topics highlighted in the recent Horizon Report 2016-2021 Cooperative Extension Edition and range from Makers, to geospatial technology, drones, Internet of Things, and more. The projects are listed below in alphabetical order of the principal investigator.

Empowering the Cooperative Extension System to make decisions with spatial data using the National Extension Web-mapping Tool

Shane Bradt, UNH Cooperative ExtensionShane Bradt, University of New Hampshire

The goal of the National Extension Web-mapping Tool (NEWT), created during a previous eXtension Innovation grant, is to increase the effective use of spatial data to make strategic decisions regarding planning and programming in the Cooperative Extension System (CES). NEWT is not simply a way to add data layers to a map, but instead is a straightforward online tool for exploring spatial data relevant to CES in the ways which CES staff and administrators find useful, including maps, tables, and graphs.

Once NEWT is released publicly in late spring 2017, this Innovation Grant will focus on promoting NEWT throughout CES, offering professional development on the use of NEWT, and gathering feedback regarding the current version, including ideas regarding new functions and datasets which could further broaden the use of NEWT.

BeeWise: 4-H STEAM Pueblo project to create Internet of Things beehives to collect and analyze data for citizen science

jane craytonJane Crayton, Colorado State University

BeeWise aims to create a robust beekeeping program which integrates quality STEM education with Maker Ed, Internet of Things (IoT), and Citizen Science. Pueblo has a large agricultural community and there is growing interest in beekeeping. The BeeWise program will engage these new beekeepers with the technology and education to successfully manage their apiaries. Several schools with FFA programs have discussed housing their own bee colonies and participating in camps and special programs.

Additionally, the BeeWise program aims to educate the general public on pollinators through strategic placement of hives at the Pueblo Zoo and the Pueblo County Courthouse which will highlight the importance of pollinators by using data that is collected from the apiaries. This will allow the public to interact with the apiary locally using an iPad Kiosk or the internet. Professional development opportunities will be available for other Agents, Zookeepers, and Teachers at FFA program.

4-H BioBand Fitness Tracker to Combine Maker Education, Data Science, Fitness, and Wearable Tech

robert hortonRobert Horton, The Ohio State University

The project features a first-of-its-kind 4-H BioBand Fitness Tracker kit with Arduino microcontroller connecting heart rate, physical activity, and temperature with capabilities of operating within the structure of the internet. The 4-H BioBand Fitness Tracker is expected to generate large amounts of data from the various sensors, thereby increasing the necessity for a quick aggregation of the data, and an increase in the need to index, store, and process such data more effectively. Overall, the project team envisions demystifying for youth the basic principles of technology design and data collection that can then be utilized and applied as Data Scientists to examine their own fitness behavior, customize their Bio-Band’s data input to fit their physical profile, and compare their experiences with a greater community of users.

Expansion of 4-H Ohio pilot-tested Maker Festivals and Tech Wizards to rural areas in multiple states

Mark Light, The Ohio State University

In 2006, the first Maker Faire was started in the San Francisco Bay area for makers to share with each other in a public venue. Because Extension is in every state and in most counties, we are equipped to grow this movement into more rural communities. The 4-H motto, “making the best better,” includes the word “making”. Extension has a history of hands-on learning and making for over 100 years, so we are primed to connect with these new audiences of makers. As the outreach arm of the University, Extension has an opportunity to not only provide access to information like it has for more than 100 years, but also to showcase through the maker movement the hands-on education we have been facilitating for years through 4-H. 4-H Making Festivals will combine the best of the maker movement with hands-on-learning. Extension staff will plan and implement five festivals in fall 2017 and spring of 2018. These will include youth from the STEM-focused 4-H Tech Wizards after-school program. These festivals will be replicated across the nation and at additional sites in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana.

4-H Making Festivals will combine the best of the maker movement with hands-on-learning. Extension staff will plan and implement five festivals in fall 2017 and spring of 2018. These will include youth from the STEM-focused 4-H Tech Wizards after-school program. These festivals will be replicated across the nation and at additional sites in Ohio, Pennsylvania, Kentucky, and Indiana.

Integrating small unmanned aerial systems and precision agriculture with beef production systems

John McGeeJohn McGee, Virginia Tech

The goal of this project is to introduce innovative technology that can be adopted by Extension, local producers, and other stakeholders to support increased efficiencies in ag operations, especially beef cattle production. The small unmanned aerial systems (sUAS) regulatory landscape changed dramatically with the FAA’s revisions that took place over the summer, 2016. As a result of these regulatory changes, Virginia Cooperative Extension (VCE) has been developing in-house expertise to support sUAS applications across program areas to support an array of needs by managers and producers. Precision agriculture is one of these potential application areas.

Based on findings from this project, VCE agents and specialists, as well as other stakeholders, will better understand some of the limitations, challenges, and benefits associated with the use of sUAS to support agricultural management. Using this information, we will be able to refine future programming efforts that can be used to support agricultural producers not only across the state but in other regions of the U.S. and beyond.