Jay Peterson shows third-graders at IKM-Manning the drone he uses in his nutrient management work with AMVC.
Jay Peterson shows third-graders at IKM-Manning the drone he uses in his nutrient management work with AMVC.

February 9, 2018

Third-graders stilled their squirms momentarily to smile and say cheese at a drone that whizzed past, far above their heads, to snap their photo.

Typically, that drone is used to photograph crops and fields, but last week, it made an exception.

Jay Petersen, who works in nutrient management with AMVC, visited IKM-Manning Elementary School last Friday to speak to several third-grade classes about his work managing manure application on crops and determining if crops are receiving enough nutrients.

And, to the delight of the students, he brought his drone.

He showed photos taken by the drone in fields, asking students to identify areas with inadequate nitrogen or nutrients, or with too many weeds or residue from older crops.

“I was really surprised about how in-depth and how critically they thought about some of the questions I asked them, and some of the interesting answers I got back,” Petersen said. “A lot of them participated. Every time I asked a question, I’d get at least 15 or 20 hands in the air.”

Petersen graduated from IKM-Manning High School in 2011 and from Iowa State University in 2015 with a degree in agronomy and seed science. He has worked with AMVC for more than two years.

“Technology is becoming greater and greater as the years go by, and I think it’s important for kids to start learning that from an early age, as they prepare for that change in technology that will be coming in the near future,” Petersen said. “Because I never thought I’d be operating a drone for my work, ever. Even five years ago, I didn’t think I’d get my hands on a drone, and here I am using this piece of technology that I had to essentially learn myself.”

Petersen’s visit was in line with one of IKM-Manning’s annual science, technology, engineering and math — STEM — programs, “Project Launch,” which features lessons about the forces of flight, IKM-Manning third-grade teacher Laurie Petersen said.

The emphasis on crops and nutrient management also tied in to earlier lesson plans on plants, she said.

And the discussion on how a drone can be used in real-life work was a hit with the students.

They were very excited and amazed,” Laurie Petersen said. “I think it helps students relate their learning to the outside world and the world around us, and it’s very motivating to the kids to see the technology. It helps them realize why we’re studying some of the topics we’re studying and helps them set goals for the future.”