MINNEAPOLIS, Minn. – Anyone in agriculture knows that employment opportunities do not end at the field or farm. Successful agriculture requires a wide range of talents and a Minnesota based company, Land O’Lakes, Inc. is working to generate awareness among college level students about the importance of robotics and computer sciences in agriculture by hosting a robot basketball game.
“We are trying to talk about the lesser known role of technology and automation in modern agriculture,” said Kim Olson, Land O’Lakes’ Chief Communications Officer, during a recent phone interview. “Mainly because we a problem. The students graduating colleges are not considering careers in agriculture in that ways that we would like them to.”
Bot Shot, the name given to the competition Land O’Lakes has created, will feature teams of students from different Universities across the country.
“We have sent robotics kits to universities that either have really strong ag or tech programs or are ones that we've had previous recruiting relationships with,” said Olson. “They have had these kits since January, and have been building a robot that can shoot a basketball.”
Universities that have received the robot kits include the University of Minnesota-Twin Cities, Iowa State University, University of Florida, Purdue University, University of Wisconsin-Madison, South Dakota State University and North Carolina A & T.
In the middle of March, the students are to start sending high light reels of their robots performing with a basketball. The robot should be able to complete a number of basketball skills, but the primary skill is shooting the ball.
From the videos, the top four teams will be selected to come to Minneapolis on April 7 for the main competition. It will be held at the DeLaSalle High School.
“They will do a head to head, good old-fashioned game of H-O-R-S-E,” she said. “The winning team receives a $10,000 prize for their organization to promote their continued work in robotics.”
The top robot will also face off against basketball legend David Robinson, who played for the San Antonio Spurs and was big player in college basketball.
“In Texas, Robinson runs some STEM schools and foundations for STEM schools, so he has a real interest in engineering and computer science,” she said.
The event is designed to give college students involved with robots and computer science a fun opportunity to show off their skills, but also to get them thinking about agriculture.
Many of the robot skills needed to handle a basketball and successfully shoot the ball through the hoop can be transferred to robotics in agriculture, such as dairy milkers.
“If you ask a engineering or computer science student where they might go apply their learning, agriculture is not always their top choice,” she said. “We want to expose them to all the opportunities that we have out there.”
This is a free event to the public on April 7 and more information can be found online at https://features.landolakesinc.com/bot-shot.
Land O’Lakes will also be filming the event and later posting high lights from the competition on social media.
“With all the technology and automation that is a part of agriculture, we need data scientists and engineers and computer scientists, all sorts of folks like that to help us feed the world and to produce more food in a sustainable way,” said Olson.