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The Strengthening Farms and the Rural Economy through Agricultural Mechanics project is based at Snow College. Snow College was founded in 1888 and has campuses located in Ephraim and Richfield, Utah. The college offers two and four year degrees and offers education programs in arts and humanities, business, computer science, criminal justice, engineering, and more. 


Jay Olsen
Principal Investigator

Operating unmanned aerial vehicles to monitor irrigation systems, crops, and livestock is one of the multidisciplinary skills taught in Snow College’s agriculture systems program.

New Program Focuses on Family-run Farms  

The Agriculture Systems Associate in Applied Science degree program addresses the needs of family farmers. It was created with the support of the Strengthening Local Farms and the Rural Economy through Agriculture Mechanics project grant.  

Its curriculum combines courses from multiple disciplines—welding, diesel mechanics, agribusiness, and manufacturing technology—with instruction about advanced technologies such as global positioning systems and unmanned aerial vehicles.  

A program recruiter will visit every Utah high school during 2018 to tell students about the program that prepares graduates to operate their families’ farms efficiently, or to work as technicians for commercial farms or equipment dealers. 

Students evaluate the settings for operation of GPS-controlled center pivot irrigation systems.

About ATE

The National Science Foundation's Advanced Technological Education (ATE) program has been funding innovation at two-year colleges for over twenty years. With a focus on the education of technicians for the high-technology fields that drive our nation's economy, and strong partnerships between academic institutions and industry, ATE promotes improvement in the education of science and engineering technicians at the undergraduate and secondary school levels.

To learn more about ATE, please visit the NSF ATE program home page.

This project at Snow College in Utah will advance knowledge in the field of agricultural mechanics by integrating education and training in the mechanics of modern, computer-driven technologies with traditional farm equipment mechanics training. Maintenance and repair of precision irrigation equipment, an important innovation that conserves water while enabling profitable farming in drought-ridden areas, requires advanced skills that students will develop as they work with state-of-the-art equipment. The use of drones and GPS makes it possible to identify and monitor problems that directly impact agricultural productivity, and drones also require very specialized maintenance and repair skills. The precision irrigation component of the project will support more efficient use of scarce water resources. Business owners and farmers will provide input into program and curriculum design by serving on the Ag Mechanics Advisory Committee. A formative and summative evaluation process will be employed to continuously enhance the project activities and provide opportunities for researching and evaluating the success of the project and deliverables.

This project is designed to develop a new Agricultural Mechanics (Ag Mechanics) program that will meet the growing need for education and training in installing, maintaining, diagnosing/troubleshooting, using, and repairing complex and integrated agricultural equipment. A multidisciplinary curriculum will focus on both traditional gasoline- and diesel-powered equipment and on new computer-driven technologies, including precision irrigation equipment, as well as drones and GPS for crop monitoring and mapping. The new program will consist of existing courses that are relevant to Ag Mechanics, existing courses that are modified to integrate new content, and newly created courses. A rich curriculum will serve students who plan to work in agriculture, both those working on family and commercial farms, and students preparing to become skilled technicians in service industries that repair, sell, and service farm equipment. Ag Mechanics will offer two certificates and an A.A.S. degree. Students who are interested in more advanced studies will be able to transfer to a four-year degree program in Agricultural Systems Technology at Utah State University. An important component of the project will be the development of a pathway program that connects high school students in agricultural courses to the Ag Mechanics program. College faculty will work with high school instructors to promote the pathway and develop a concurrent enrollment course in Ag Mechanics. Area high schools that participate in the pathway program will be able to provide their students with a broader educational experience. Because their high school classes are the beginning of a pathway that can lead to a certificate, a two-year degree, and a four-year baccalaureate degree, participating students will be motivated to complete high school and seek college-level education. The program will provide a model for other technical colleges as the focus on both traditional and modern equipment is an approach that can be replicated at colleges throughout the nation. The multidisciplinary design, which combines existing courses with new and modified courses, is an excellent template for other small schools that lack the financial and human resources to create completely new curricula.