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STEM Activities

STEM Activity: Design Your Own Farm

Farmers are essential to our way of life. These hardworking individuals grow crops and keep livestock, providing us with the foods we rely on every day. Without their efforts to plant, feed, raise and harvest, our food supply would look very different.

Celebrate National Farmer’s Day on Oct. 12 with a fun farm activity! Learn how supply and demand work as you design your own mini farm, then develop an invention that can help you run it.


Materials Needed

  • Clay or dough
  • Paper
  • Pencil, markers or crayons


Step-by-Step Instructions

  1. Watch this video featuring the inventors of the cutting-edge digital farm management system SwineTech to discover the role that inventing can play on a farm.
  2. Team up with family or friends to think about, research and discuss challenges that might exist on a farm.

    You could even consider taking a trip to a farm, if possible, and asking farm workers about problems they face and solutions they wish they had.
  3. Using clay or dough, design your own mini farm that is getting ready to open for business! Consider the layout, the animals that might live there and the technology that exists or might be invented.
  4. Next, take on one of the most important parts of developing your farm business deciding what types of fruits and vegetables you would like to grow.

    Remember that this decision should not just be based on what you like to eat. Think about what other people want to eat, so they will buy your food.
  5. Need some help deciding what crops to plant? Have some fun by printing this Supply and Demand Poster and using it as a target.
    • Crumple a piece of paper into a ball and throw it at your Supply and Demand Poster to see what fruit or vegetable you might grow on your farm.
    • Try to hit the "sweet spot" in the middle for a crop that will be the most beneficial to your business!
  6. Identify a challenge or need on your farm, and then use clay or paper to design an invention prototype that can help with this challenge or need.
    • Could you use an innovative irrigation method to bring water to your farm?
    • Might you design a new way to deliver food to any animals you’re raising?
    • Can you create an invention to prevent soil erosion?
  7. Create a unique logo for your invention. Draw your logo on paper and consider using markers or crayons to make it colorful.
  8. Develop a pitch promoting your invention. Then, deliver your pitch to a family member or friend to tell them why your farm tech invention is unique, useful and patent worthy!


What Are We Discovering?

Innovation can exist anywhere there is an opportunity to solve a problem, including in farming!

For a great example, look to SwineTech team members Abraham Espinoza and Matthew Rooda from the University of Iowa. They became the 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition® (CIC) Undergraduate Winners with their agricultural invention, SmartGuard®.

In 2016, more than 116 million newborn piglets were crushed accidentally by their mothers on hog farms, resulting in billions of dollars lost. SmartGuard monitors the pitch, loudness and duration of squeals to determine whether a piglet is in distress or just squealing as piglets normally do. When a piglet is in distress, the device sends a vibration to a wearable patch on the mother, prompting her to stand and free her piglet.

Espinoza and Rooda recognized a major farming challenge and solved the problem using innovation and collaboration. Their invention has helped farm operations across North America.


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