George Washington Carver Day

 

VernelleOn an unseasonably warm day in February about 200 high and middle school youth experienced the life of George Washington Carver. On February 15, 2018, University of Maryland Extension, Baltimore County 4-H Educators Vernelle Mitchell-Hawkins and Dwayne Murphy led the day with the help of many supporting partners.  The morning was set aside for high school youth to simulate key points from Carver’s career. Students from Benjamin Franklin High School and George Washington Carver High School were in attendance for the morning session.

Pasture

Coming off of buses, students were excited to be in a beautiful open space of pastures, grass, barns at the Baltimore County Center for Maryland Agriculture and Farm Park, fondly known as the Ag Center. This facility was used on this day as a learning space filled with hands-on activities, animals, books, teachers, scientists, and volunteers. The groups were divided and some went to the Horse Arena to learn from University of Maryland Extension Soil Nutrient Management Advisor Erika Crowl as she shared Agri-science concepts about the dairy industry. Erika began by teaching the students that Extension is the community education portion of the Land-Grant Universities like University of Maryland.  She then related the Extension concept to George Washington Carver’s work with the traveling Jesup Agricultural Wagon. This wagon was known as a “movable school” used for teaching and sharing knowledge from the local University with the community to improve farms.

Two dairy calves greeted the youth at the entrance of the arena – just like what may have been seen in the 1800’s when Carver was traveling to farms. In Erika’s session, students learned about the components of milk and what products can be made from cows. They also got to make butter using real cream and conducted a taste test of the final product.  Interestingly, Carver has been credited for making a milk type product from peanuts and as a substitute for cow’s milk.

Romney Cheviot Mix Sheep
Rosie the Romney Cheviot mix sheep helped students lean more about where their wool actually comes from.

Next, the youth went to the Romney Cheviot Mix sheep that live at the Ag Center to learn about other products that Carver would have helped farmers produce. This included a discussion about the importance and uses for wool. They also learned about animal behavior and how to take care of sheep. From the sheep they went on to a session presented by University of Maryland Extension Plant Pathologist, Andy Kness who talked about what he does as an Agricultural Agent. Much like Carver, Andy is our “Plant Doctor” as George Washington Carver was also fondly called. The students got to play a plant vs. pathogen simulation game and learned all about how plant cells work to fight against bacteria.  Andy discussed the impact of disease on plants and how it affects other parts of the food chain.

As the group moved from the Arena to the Exhibit Barn, students stopped and saw the week old chicks that are also in residence at the Ag Center.  This provided a valuable teachable moment about life cycle as well as proper growing conditions of animals.

Baby chicks
Newly born chicks offer an opportunity to see the cycle of life.

These are all concepts that would have been discussed on the Jesup Wagon in Carver’s day.  Inside the Exhibit Barn the Baltimore County Library conducted a discussion about the life of George Washington Carver and the many books written about him. In addition, to his work in the sciences, Carver was a gifted artist and studied art at Simpson College in Iowa in 1890. It was through this experience of drawing and painting botanical samples that he was encouraged to enroll in the Botany program at the Iowa State Agricultural College. The youth enjoyed examples of his artwork.  As a memorial to his artistic life and belief in reusing materials, the participants made flowers from recycled comic books. This craft was chosen to represent and remember the fact that Carver always work a flower in the lapel of his jacket.

As the students moved into the main room of the Ag Center’s main building, they had many stations to choose from to learn more about agricultural science and George Washington Carver’s contributions to society. One of the stations featured real cotton still on the plant. At this station students learned about King Cotton and how the Boll Weevil devastated the crop in the 1800’s.  Carver actively promoted alternative crops to cotton and taught several methods to prevent  soil depletion. The youth got to see microscopic samples of various fibers from cotton to wool to synthetics to learn about their different properties. Leading this station was Alex Smith, a volunteer for the day from Tree Baltimore.

There was also a station headed by Alexa Smarr, University of Maryland Extension Horticulturist and Master Gardener Coordinator.  She taught students about the nutritional benefits of eating insects for a low cost high yield form of protein. Students had the opportunity to try from a number of different kinds of insects including such as pizza flavored crickets, mango silkworms, basil mealworms, and others. Over 250 insects were eaten during the event. As a plant doctor Carver worked to help plants that were infested with various kinds of insects. He also worked to help people find food sources that were affordable and nutritious.

Another favorite station was the storm water runoff simulation.  Youth working with University of Maryland Extension Watershed Restoration Specialist Kelsey Brooks learned how the various layers beneath the ground are affected by both water and pollutants. A hands-on experiment was conducted by all the youth that went through this enlightening station. George Washington Carver was a steward of the land and was instrumental in educating southern farmers on the practice of crop rotation. He was especially known for teaching about rotating the cotton crops with peanut plants to aid restoring nitrogen to the soil.

Bees and pollinationThere was a beekeeper station that was taught by MARC volunteer Devra Kitterman, who shared about honey making, pollination and the value of bees in agriculture.  She had honey bee boxes on site and shared how bees play a part in the larger ecosystem.

Additionally, there was also a soybean station set up for students to explore.  At this station they learned in a “shell game” style activity that soybeans have become a major crop in the food system and is found in many common soybeans in everything with Wes Jamison MARCfood items. Wes Jamison, Gayle Ensor and Mimi Colson Leaning from Maryland Agricultural Resource Council volunteered at this station. They also shared information about how Carver conducted research on the soybean plant and created dozens of new uses for the plant including plastics for cars, foods, home products and plant based gasoline.  They also offered samples of Wow Butter, a peanut butter substitute made from soybeans butter.

Christine Allred, a 4-H Educator from St. Mary’s County shared about beans, their anatomy and growth. Youth had a chance to do their own discoveries with beans using iodine to bring out the characteristics of the beans. This experiment illustrated American Landscape Instituteto students how Carver’s work to prove that beans are a good source of starchy nutrition. Martha Pindale from American Landscape Institute was also on hand to share information about Landscaping and Horticulture as a viable career path for anyone interested in following in the footsteps of Carver.

Last but not least was food preservation. George Washington Carver also did work in the area of home economics and safe food preservation. To simulate this area of his research, youth made their own strawberry preserves. Dr. Shauna Henley, Family and Consumer Science Educator for University of Maryland Extension taught the youth many aspects of food safety and preservation of food.  She taught almost 200 people how to safely make jam using fresh strawberries and research based canning techniques.

 

The high school youth at George Washington Carver were student mentors in the afternoon sessions with middle schoolers helping out in the various stations. They gave hands-on support to our educators and help make the afternoon run more smoothly. Just as Carver himself, who took his experiments and teaching on the road to farmers with the “Jesup wagon” the students that helped to bring agricultural education and the life of Carver to youth from around the area came out away from their school to share their new found knowledge.

Robotic employment: hidden values and benefits

By Rishi Biswas, former member of the Hunt Valley Robotics 4-H Club, currently in the 4-H Teen Council Club, 4-H Camp Counselor

 

This a copy of the prepared speech Rishi gave at this year’s Public Speaking competition. 

Rishi

During the 19th century, a group of self-employed textile workers rebelled against and destroyed efficient textile-producing technologies which they feared would end their business. The group, known today as the Luddites, represents the contemporary fear that automation, due to its efficiency, will replace people in the workforce and cause worldwide unemployment. At the vanguard of this concern are the concepts of Artificial Intelligence, or AI, and robotics, which are replacing people in a variety of fields, due to their cost effectiveness, efficiency, and even their ability to learn. While robots and AI do indeed present this threat, they offer a heap of benefits towards improving human lives, which include providing initiative for education and supplementing the workforce.

ROADMAP: To begin with, we will explore how robots do not already take away all jobs available on the market. Furthermore, we will talk about how robots can augment human ability in some jobs and carry out jobs that are hazardous to people. Finally, we will discuss how the robotic “invasion” of jobs can actually be beneficial to members of the workforce and people everywhere.

Trans 1: Now, before we discuss the advantages of the use of robotics in the workforce, let us take a look at some of the disadvantages.

Due to their lack of emotion, robots will not take away jobs in the market that involve interaction with people, and certain things that people are proficient at. Without emotive capabilities, robots cannot do jobs which involve the human experience. Take sports, for instance. The very essence of sports includes athleticism and winning, which are both hugely integral to the human experience. As proof of this, millions upon millions of fans will flock to their nearest stadium, golf course, or race track to watch their team win (or lose if so be the case), in a nerve-wracking match of grit, muscles, and strategy. And if robots were used as sports announcers, then they would have the capability to detail the events of a game, but they would lack the passion and emotion that make the events so memorable, as their monotone, boring voices are not nearly on par with the adrenaline-filled expression of a sports announcer. In other words, robots would not understand the human joy expressed in a sport. This lack of emotion also limits robots’ ability to have meaningful human interaction. In specific fields such as healthcare, patients might prefer the care of a human, who has empathy. Some fields are also inaccessible because robots do not have human intuition. According to the online technology guide, makeuseof, written on July 2014, Robots can never be repairmen, because they will always have problems which require human intuition to spot, and since robots are incapable of this intuition, they would find it difficult to repair their counterparts. Also stated in the same makeuseof article, robots can never be lawmakers in a society of humans, because their use of pure logic cannot calculate the dispute over fields such as gay marriage or rampant crime. Therefore, robots do not pose such a big threat to people, because they will not take all human jobs available on the market.

Trans 2: While there are jobs that robots cannot do, there are many jobs that now require robots, and for a multitude of reasons.

Robots can augment human jobs in some ways and can do some jobs that are hazardous to human beings, therefore decreasing the danger present to those in that line of work. Through their precision, robots can improve both the quality and efficiency of human work in several fields. One example of such a field is surgery. In robotic surgery, a surgeon would use a computer console to move the instruments attached to robotic arms. Mount Carmel hospital’s own website tells us that robots such as the da Vinci surgical system will enable surgeons to perform remote surgeries from far away, and carry out such surgeries with greater precision and smaller cuts, leading to less pain and decreased blood loss. There are multiple online resources, such as forbes, which tell us that robots can also perform and help people to do dangerous jobs, such as crime fighting. Robots such as those from the company Robotex can help police find criminals without endangering the lives of officers. And robots equipped with certain tools and hardware can perform other hazardous tasks, such as the cleaning of ducts and sewers or the investigation of hazardous environments such as oil spills or nuclear power plants. But the use of robots is most prominent in the military, where they are often used to deactivate bombs or dispose of those that have already exploded, and can be used as aerial reconnaissance vehicles, saving the lives of both pilots and bomb technicians.

Trans 3: While robots are often used to supplement human performance, there are nonetheless some jobs that robots take over entirely.

Rishi glow blur 3

Through their efficiency and cost effectiveness, robots and AI can provide numerous advantages for people utilizing robotics. The first advantage of having robots in the workforce are that they can improve the prosperity of companies by doing work more resourcefully than human beings. Robots, being unemotional and mechanical, as previously discussed, can do tedious tasks without the setbacks that humans face, such as distraction or boredom, and without any distractions, robots will never take breaks, never go on strike, and never ask for a raise. Factory work, consisting of such tedious jobs, is one of the great opportunities for robots. According to the website how stuff works, the robot known as Unimate has already taken a big role on the automobile production line in the General Motors factories. Amazon fulfillment centers are also testing robots that quickly move entire shelves of products, delivering them to employees who package the items for shipment, while outmatching their human counterparts, and optimizing the delivery process, as discussed in an article for the Chicago tribune. The concept of AI is also making its way into the workforce. As stated by Vivian Giang on the website fastcompany, in 2014 the University of Birmingham built the first ever Robot security guard, named Bob. While not up to standards with human guards, Bob can ask for directions when lost, or recharge his battery when it is low. This means that Bob can learn from other humans without direct programmer input. And the infamous AI machine from jeopardy, known as Watson, is also making his mark on the workforce. Watson is a supercomputer made by the tech giant IBM that can be used for various jobs. For example, according to the 60 minutes episode titled Artificial Intelligence, Watson recently worked on a case of cancer and provided the correct treatment for the patient, after a team of doctors failed to do so. That same team of doctors, now working with Watson’s attentive eye, could successfully diagnose the patient’s form of cancer and provide the correct treatment. And all of these examples clearly demonstrate how robots and AI can do some jobs better than humans. And that leaves most people asking: “Well, what is going to happen to us?” First, before we panic, we should consider that robotics is only an innovation, and in the past, innovations have been beneficial to people as well as the economy. For example, the printing press was a very big innovation in the literature industry, and without it, modern publishing companies would not exist; also literature would not be as widespread or popular as it is now. Another prominent example is agriculture. In 1870, statistics from the website tech crunch shows that agriculture employed 80-90% of the population, but with today’s advancements, employs only 1%, freeing up space for people to do other things. Similarly, with robotics, there will certainly be displacement, but like before, it will free up space for other jobs which will accommodate to the robot workforce, such as engineers or repairmen. However, these jobs require higher education, and those who are replaced, such as factory workers or hotel attendants, may not have advanced degrees. But this is where economical intelligence comes in. Companies and firms that no longer have to pay their employees can allocate money towards training programs, which can teach those replaced employees how to repair robots that are working for the company. Another proactive measure would be to improve children’s education to cover more STEM related subjects to prepare them for the ever-evolving workforce. In short, robots will not eliminate the workforce, but rather change and specialize it.

We have discussed the disadvantages of robots, like how they do not show emotion or how they cannot comprehend the human mind. We have have covered how robots can complement human performance, and how, with the full implementation of robotics, that we can ensure the safety of others. And finally, we have noted how the additional revenue gained by a company can be used to retrain employees to ensure proper operation of the robot workforce. We should not fear robots, but instead, appreciate and value the innovations that come from their use.

Ashley Treadwell

The first in a series of Baltimore County 4-Hers reflecting on where 4-H has taken them.

Ashley TreadwellThe first in a series of Baltimore County 4-Hers reflecting on where 4-H has taken them.

By Ashley Treadwell

This fall I will become a Cyclone, joining my fellow classmates and start a new chapter of my life at Iowa State University. There, I will meet new friends and hopefully learn a lot about the agricultural industry. I plan on majoring in Agricultural Education and hope to double major that with International Ag. I have been in 4-H for the past six years and have learned so much and made many friends within that time. I am thankful for all those who have helped me. They have encouraged me to do my best to do by doing and for that I am grateful. Without 4-H I would not be as good of a public speaker as I am or know as much about the Livestock Industries. For younger 4-Hers, I encourage you to do some research of 4-H competitions and trips the state and national 4-H hold. Those experiences will last a lifetime and not only will you have a blast but you will learn so much that you will think that you can’t learn anymore. I wish that I could have found out about some of the competitions and trips before my senior year of high school. The more you do, the more experience you gain, making you a more well- rounded person on the whole. I am thankful for my 4-H career and am excited for my last year in 4-H.

ashley showing ashley with a game ashley bone Ashley public speaking