Enhancing Students' Learning of High Technology in Horticulture

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  • 1 Univ. of Hawaii at Manoa, Tropical Plant & Soil Sciences Dept., Honolulu, HI 96822

How do we enhance students' learning experience and help them be aware of current and emerging technology used in horticulture? An undergraduate course on “Computer Applications, High Technology, and Robotics in Agriculture” was developed to address these needs. Its objectives were to familiarize students with the ways computers, high technology, and robotics are used in agriculture and to teach students how to design, build, and run a robot. The diverse topics included computer models and simulation, biosensors and instrumentation, graphical tracking and computer scheduling, new methods in plant ecology, automation and robotics, Web-based distance diagnostic and recommendation system, GIS and geospatial analysis, and greenhouse environmental control. An individual speaker presented one topic each week with students also visiting some speaker's labs. The students did active, hands on learning through assignments on computer simulations (STELLA simulation language) and graphical tracking (UNH FloraTrack software). They also built, programmed, and ran robots using Lego Mindstorms robotic kits. The course was evaluated using the Univ.'s CAFE system. There were also open-ended questions for student input. On a scale of 1 (strongly disagree) to 5 (strongly agree), mean scores of the 20 CAFE questions ranged from 3.71 to 4.75 with an overall mean of 4.22. When comparisons to other TPSS courses were possible, this course had a higher mean score for four out of seven questions. Course evaluations indicated this special topics course was important and valuable in helping enhance the students' learning experience.

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