In this activity inspired by 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition® Undergraduate Gold Winners Abraham Espinoza and Matthew Rooda from SwineTech®, children invent a device to safely herd their “pigs.”
- Balloons (pink)
- Boxes (large)
- Design materials (e.g., cardboard, craft sticks, paint stir sticks, pipe cleaners, straws)
- Inflate several pink balloons to serve as pigs and scatter them around the room.
- Locate a few boxes that are big enough to hold all the pigs. Use a marker to write “Pig Pen” on them or create a sign.
- Gather any available design materials.
- Build a prototype of a pig-herding tool to get all the little pigs in the pen without touching them with your hands or feet. For views and sounds on the farm, play this track while you work.
- Once the device is ready, play this track for extra immersion and begin rounding up the pigs as fast as you can!
- Celebrate a successful pig roundup with a few piggy squeals!
Educators: Use this activity in the classroom with these modifications!
For educators looking to use this activity in their classrooms, complete the instructions in the section above, and then have your students design other innovative farm equipment.
What types of devices might help farmers easily feed and care for their pigs? What type of automated grooming device might keep the pigs healthy and looking good while freeing up valuable time? How might you bring a feeding trough to the next level?
Have your students sketch their ideas and build prototypes using recyclables and any available craft materials.
What are we learning?
In this hands-on STEM activity, children explore the exciting new innovations and high-tech gadgets being developed for the modern farmer. As a parent or educator, we encourage you to share these new types of technology and their capabilities with children.
A great example comes from SwineTech team members Abraham Espinoza and Matthew Rooda from the University of Iowa, who won first place in the 2017 Collegiate Inventors Competition for their pig-saving invention — SmartGuard®. More than 116 million newborn piglets are accidentally crushed by their mothers on hog farms each year, resulting in billions of dollars lost. The SmartGuard system monitors the pitch, volume and duration of squeals and determines 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. Check out this video to hear more about this system’s development from team SwineTech.