By Jason Fischer
Fox Valley Technical College
Practice makes perfect, at least near perfect, in an industry that assumes uncontrollable factors like weather and related seasonal uncertainties.
A new combine tractor simulator at Fox Valley Technical College, donned in unmistakable John Deere green and yellow, is a virtual ride through any farm field and field condition. The simulation gives agriculture students from five different programs at FVTC another high-tech learning tool. Housed in the Service Motor Company Agriculture Center on the Appleton, Wis., campus, the technology creates an authentic experience of being inside a tractor combine, making this type of practice far from boring.
“It’s a really fun way to practice behind the wheel,” said double major Sheila Weninger, who is pursuing degrees in Agribusiness Science and Technology with Agronomy and Precision Agriculture. “The simulator also builds confidence for students who’ve not had much experience on a farm.”
In addition to Weninger’s programs, students enrolled in FVTC’s Agriculture Power Equipment, Agribusiness Dairy Technician and Farm Operation also gain relevant experience from the simulator in a safe, comfortable environment. The virtual reality combine is available to students throughout every semester in a lab setting so they can conveniently access it as part of their curriculum.
Weninger noted that agriculture is all about precision when it comes to optimizing the process of planting and harvesting.
“Most of the combines rely on GPS systems these days,” she added. “Knowing how to operate something like this makes a big difference in monitoring yield and cost per acre, for example.”
For ag power student Kade Johnson, the simulator better prepares him for working on farm machinery.
“Road techs, for instance, may encounter a problem with a feed roll,” said the Clintonville native. “In this position we’ll have to know what caused damage to the part and be able to fix it efficiently. The combine simulator gives us a chance to look at potential problems like these.”
Supported in part by a Wisconsin Technical College System Technology Infusion grant, the combine simulator adds a new dimension to the already innovation-rich agriculture center at FVTC.
Recently-added simulation resources in calf birthing and equine care complement a new line of Service Motor Company/Case IH training vehicles on a regular basis and related outdoor power equipment from Ariens Company.
Fischer is an ag instructor at Fox Valley Technical College in Appleton, Wis.