Educational experts say students learn best through hands-on education. A University of Missouri and ADM partnership will give Missouri Agricultural Systems Management students a chance to hone team and entrepreneur skills in a newly renovated cutting-edge laboratory to be dedicated Oct. 9.
The ADM Center for Agricultural Development was designed to provide students experiential learning in the latest theories of biofuel development, food production and energy processing. The lab will also be used by food science, hospitality systems and agricultural education students.
Leon Schumacher, professor of agricultural systems management at the College of Agriculture, Food and Natural Resources, helped coordinate the project and said the lab will allow students to step out of the classroom and into the lab where they will team with peers and faculty on projects and equipment typical in the rapidly-changing agricultural industries.
Learning Through Doing
Schumacher said the lab allows students to select critical issues facing agriculture and brainstorm solutions, develop a timeline and budget, make decisions, take the initiative to test solutions in the lab, and be accountable for results. Schumacher said this is the best approach to develop team skills needed by industry.
Rather than classroom lecturers, faculty will function as coaches and resource people who will guide students’ projects in a way that helps them learn from their successes and failures.
ADM donated $1 million to renovate labs in the Agricultural Engineering Building on the Mizzou campus. Schumacher said ADM became interested in helping after being impressed by CAFNR’s student interns. The interns planned and constructed a model grain elevator, an $80,000 teaching aid now being used by the Agricultural Systems Management program.
Skills Needed in Industry
“ADM agrees with us that experiential learning best prepares students to learn to work as a team and tackle problems in a systematic way,” Schumacher said. “Even with our old technology and approaches our graduates found success in industry. Now, we can prepare them to be even more effective leaders who find solutions faster and more economically.”
Agricultural Systems Management combines applied agricultural technology with business and economics. It is the study of how machinery, electrical power, soil and water can be most effectively managed in modern production agriculture. It blends applications of physical principles, technology and systems with an emphasis on business management. The modern agricultural and food industry depends on many complex, automated and mechanical systems for successful operation.
“We are particularly interested in identifying educational opportunities for greater entrepreneurial experience,” Schumacher said. “Entrepreneurs are problem solvers, and 21st century agriculture has no shortage of problems that are opportunities for innovation.”
Schumacher pointed out that today’s agricultural students will face tremendous challenges in their careers. By 2050, he said, the world’s population will grow from 6 billion to 9 billion people. “To feed these additional billions we will need to produce more food in the next 40 years than during the entire course of history to date, and we must do so while improving our environment.”
The new lab is segmented into four areas – a computer center where students can research and design their projects, a clean mechanical assembly area, an instructional area where students are introduced to computer-operated machines and welding, and offices where the students can form teams and plan projects.
All four areas feature multimedia stations where students can access data or communicate with each other no matter where they are in the lab. Video recording and green screen technology will allow students to capture their experiments and share them anywhere in the world.