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Sunday October 21st 2018



SURP Participants Take Flight with New Discoveries

Summer Beery and Dr. Tom Paulsen

Summer Beery and Dr. Tom Paulsen (photo by Karrie Alvarez)

by Rachael Arnts–A lot of students see summer vacation as a way to take a break from schoolwork. However, a handful of students along with faculty advisors chose to spend their summer break researching instead.

This past summer six students and their faculty advisors participated in Morningside’s second year of the Summer Undergraduate Research Program (SURP). Associate Professor of Biology and Chemistry, Dr.  Andy Thomas, serves as the head of SURP.

“It provides funding for students to work with a faculty member for eight weeks over the summer (June/July) on new projects and research,” explains Dr. Thomas. “In addition to providing stipends to students and faculty, there are funds for equipment and materials needed for the projects and for students to travel to a conference to present their results from the summer.”

Dr. Tom Paulsen, chair of the Applied Agricultural and Food Studies department, and junior Summer Beery participated in SURP together this past summer.

“I chose to do the program because I was looking to do something that could benefit my education and future career,” says Beery.

Their research topic was “Teaching with Unmanned Aerial Vehicles: Perceptions of Iowa SBAE (School-Based Agricultural Education) Instructors.

“We picked the topic because we were looking for something that is growing in ag,” explained Beery.

Dr. Paulsen and Beery quickly discovered that there is little research on the benefits of drones in the classroom to begin with.

“We started the project from scratch,” commented Dr. Paulsen.

After a topic was chosen, Beery went straight to work with Dr. Paulsen as her collaborative partner and advisor. The first thing to do was literature reviews. Beery researched drones so she could have a better understanding of them.

Next, they constructed a survey to send to Iowa High School ag teachers. The intention of this survey was to see if these ag educators saw value in integrating fourteen different UAV components in their classrooms. For example, mapping, sensing, and FAA (Federal Aviation Administration) regulations. The survey was sent to 186 teachers and they got a 51 percent response rate.

Beery was pleased with the number of responses and was able to learn from them.

Beery explains, “The majority [high school ag teachers] said they would like to integrate drones into their curriculum, but they don’t have the capacity to teach it. They need training themselves.”

The next task was to collect and analyze the data. The respondents identified thirteen of the fourteen components as either, important or very important, for inclusion in the SBAE curriculum.

Dr. Paulsen and Beery were able to come up with a weighted mean discrepancy score. This provides an understanding of what top criteria needs to be taught to ag educators. The result was that mapping and sensing are the most important for teachers to learn in order to effectively educate students about drone usage.

Beery got to present their findings to the other SURP students and faculty and even President Reynders.

Next, Dr. Paulsen and Beery co-authored and submitted a poster abstract to the Agricultural Education’s Research and Professional Development Conference. It was accepted.

On Friday, Sept. 22, the two will travel to Iowa State University in Ames to present at the North Central Region of the American Association for Agricultural Education’s Annual Research and Professional Development Conference.

Dr. Paulsen and Beery also just completed a research paper and submitted it to the National Blue Ribbon Agricultural Mechanics Research Conference. This conference is to be held in Indianapolis, Indiana during the National FFA Convention in late October. They will find out in late September whether or not they are accepted.

Both Dr. Paulsen and Beery are pleased with their accomplishments and really enjoyed participating in SURP.

“The experience taught me every aspect of the research process and it gave me the opportunity to gain knowledge on a topic that is related to my career focus,” says Beery. “The main thing that I learned was how to write scholarly.”

“SURP is an engaging, challenging, and rewarding experience for both students and faculty,” comments Dr. Paulsen.

Dr. Thomas adds, “SURP is great program for students because it gives them a chance to really focus on a project of interest to them without having to worry about courses, sports, activities and jobs, which take up a lot of time during the normal academic year. It also provides students with in-depth experience that employers and especially professional and graduate schools are looking for from graduates.”