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Pennsylvania ACTE Fall 2015 Newsletter


There Was a Farmer Who Had a Drone

Agriculture Goes Tech with Unmanned Ariel Systems

By Gerald Reichard

 PA ACTE Drone 

As a youth growing up in rural Pennsylvania, I can remember the model airplanes that were on that we would fly around the farm. Who would have thought that this toy could ever be used successfully 60 years later as an important tool in our modern business world? 

During a recent visit to a field day presented by Independent AG Equipment, more than 200 attendees had an opportunity to not only see, but also operate huge agricultural equipment.  One of the newer equipment items that the Adams County company demonstrated during this field day was the AgriImage Unmanned Aerial Systems, also known as drones. 

The AgScout, the most popular unit, carries a variety of payload options, including a near-infrared camera, a thermal imaging camera, a high-definition camera, and zoom cameras. The smaller AgScout Mini is a high-definition video recorder used for crop scouting, cattle counts, and insurance claims.

The AgScout gives users the ability to fly the unmanned aerial system manually or to create GPS waypoints for autonomous flight. GPS waypoints allow users to grid their field and can be set-up on a computer or tablet.

The drone will fly the desired pattern while simultaneously taking high definition images and transmitting a live video feed to your ground station. After the flight pattern is complete, the drone will return home and land.

Mark Anderson, CEO for this family owned corporation, said that there is “a world of opportunities in agricultural occupations for current CTE students to be exploring.” A former CTE student himself, Anderson predicts that we will see tremendous growth in the uses of new technologies within the next 5 years. He was extremely excited to be able to add drone technology to the company’s product line.

Here are just a few examples Anderson gave of how the drones can be used for agriculture:

In Crop Production – Attach a camera to a drone and survey the effectiveness of weed control in a large cropping area without actually entering the growing crop area on foot.  View the effectiveness of an irrigation system in a cropping area and also be able to spot problem areas with the irrigation system.  This technology can be used to detect insect infestations in a cropping area so that appropriate corrective measures can be taken. Crop growth can be evaluated to see if proper nutritional techniques were implemented to obtain uniform crop growth throughout the entire area. 

In Forestry – Anderson discusses how Forestry students at The Pennsylvania State University’s Mont Alto campus are being introduced to the use of drones to survey and evaluate the timber growth that is in a woodlot area. Measurements of tree diameter and height can be easily obtained.  It can be difficult to evaluate insect or disease presence if the tree is quite tall and the evaluator is at ground level. These are just a few of the benefits that the forestry industry can achieve from using this technology.

Fruit and Vegetable Production – Evaluating the maturity of fruit tree crops on any part of the tree can be accomplished with the use of a drone equipped with a camera.  This technology can be used as well to evaluate insect and disease issues. Drones can assist the farm manager to determine if proper nutrient management issues need to be addressed.

Animal Agriculture – Managers of animal enterprises can use this technology to check on animals that are under their care.  Where are the animals?  Are there any animals that are stressed and need attention?  How are the fences?  Are there fence areas that need repairs?  Are there predators present? How is the feed supply for this herd?  “There are additional devices that can be attached to these drones that can determine sensitivity to animal body temperatures,” Anderson said.  

Other possible applications include using the drone to document crop damage for any reason, for example evidence of loss.  Anderson added that some agricultural realtors are using this technology as a marketing tool for agricultural real estate sales.

“What we are seeing today is just the beginning of new technologies that will soon be available for many uses, some of which we have not yet identified,” said Anderson. This is why it is important for schools to also be using this technology, like the Forestry students at Penn State. Anderson wants to make sure that businesses like his let schools know what they are using so that their students can gain exposure to the technologies early.  

Todd Luke: Data Whisperer

Big Data Become Less Fearful and More Useful when Taken One Step at a Time

PA ACTE Big Data

“Looking at it; it is simple but elegant,” explained Todd Luke about his analysis of NOCTI data for 30 different schools in Pennsylvania. The former CTE student and current vice president at Max Teaching has spent five years customizing the overwhelming amount of NOCTI report data schools receive to create analysis career and technical schools can use towards school improvement efforts.

“Schools are always looking to improve instruction and examining how to do that,” says Luke. “In CTE that is NOCTI. Every student takes NOCTI exams. Unfortunately, data scares the majority of educators; especially NOCTI [data]. For one class there could be 30 kids tested on 129 competencies. That is a pretty good grid of data.”

Luke explained that NOCTI puts out useful reports on competencies that show challenges in the curriculum. His question was what if you analyze that data across years and schools?

So during his master’s studies at Penn State, Luke developed an open source computer program that automated the NOCTI analysis. Now he could take a school’s data and develop custom reports. The program allows him to do in minutes what would take a CTC probably months to work on. Then he took the data from every school who had ever shared it with him and created a full on analysis of NOCTI competencies. 

Luke does not charge schools for his analysis.  He just asks that those institutions who provide data to him for analysis and reports allow him to include their data in his wider analysis. He currently has 40 percent of the schools in Pennsylvania’s NOCTI data.  

“I want as many people in the club as I can. I have only been doing this analysis for five years, but I was a career tech student 30 years ago. I have a great passion and respect for CTE. I want to give back to it.”

For example, Luke shared his analysis of 27 welding programs in Pennsylvania. It showed which schools and sites did well on which competencies and which schools could use improvement. 

In his report Luke has what he calls gold star schools, those that score perfectly. The next tier is those schools that score 80 percent or higher in a competency, then there is the group that ranges at 50-80 percent, and then the third category is under 50 percent. He then develops calculations for the percentage of the curriculum that is delivered at each tier.

 It is then up to the schools to look at the calculations in relation to curriculum, projects, methods, assessments, and other aspects related to the competency.  “The analysis just acts as a blueprint for what to do,” he explains.

“The idea is that through professional learning networks or communities, schools would work together to improve CTE programs. They could share curriculum info right down to the lesson plan they used for a certain competency.”

For example, Luke said there is a group of 10 centers in the Western part of the state that uses his analysis during program meetings to discuss ways to improve. He also said there is a consortium of schools in York County and another one in Chester County that have developed professional learning networks. Members look at the collective data together to develop improvement plans. He said Philadelphia schools are also looking into developing networks.

Luke also explained that the data can also be analyzed by student or teacher, working on remediation plans that target only lacking competencies.

 “This is really what we could do with big data to help CTE,” he said. “I think that every time I run a report. Schools can look at things and have a whole bunch of conversations at a much higher level if they were all looking at reports at the same time.”

He also thinks NOCTI could learn from this analysis as well. “There are instances where no one did well on a particular competency,” Luke explained. “Maybe NOCTI needs to look at the test and see if there is something wrong there.”

Luke said he has worked with some schools for three or four years who have systematically gone through the competencies to change their program. “They look at it as a 6,000 pound elephant and they are taking one bite at a time. They just keep looking at the next thing and in three years, it gets better.”

One day Luke would like to take this type of analysis nation-wide. “Imagine you teach a criminal justice program and you could have access to data from criminal justice programs all over the country. Outliers in this field could be connected to projects, instructional methods, this list goes on.”

But ultimately to Luke, “it is about using the resources you have available to you. Everybody uses NOCTI. No other test gives you that type of information on the career tech side. It is a very good report. Now we need to utilize and see what we can do with it. Let’s help each other out and see what happens.”

-For More Information-

If you would like your school to be a part of Luke’s data analysis, you can contact him at todd@maxteaching.com.


CTE in the City

Recruiting Urban Students for CTE Programs Take a Different Approach

Urban Recruit

When close to half of your student population drops out of school, you look everywhere for answers.  Philadelphia public schools found an answer in career and technical education.

According to Carol Adukaitis, director of workforce initiatives for the state’s system of higher education, when you compare dropout rates in Philadelphia from regular public schools to secondary schools with a CTE program, the number of drop outs goes down by more than 50 percent.

“CTE is a viable pathway for the future,” said Adukaitis. “Nine in 10 in a CTE concentration in the state graduate on time, seven in 10 enroll in post-secondary, with 10 to 12 credits already completed.” 

The number of CTE students has increased in Philadelphia as the percent achieving competent/advanced levels on program completion evaluations (NOCTI) and industry certification exams has also increased, according to David Kipphut, Deputy Chief, Career and Technical Education for the School District of Philadelphia.

Given these statistics on both dropout rates and CTE interest, Adukaitis and Kipphut began to look at a way to recruit more Philadelphia students into CTE. 

The Academy Structure

Adukaitis began developing academies a few years ago to help schools that were noncompliant in serving underrepresented communities in their CTE programs. 

For example, girls are continually underrepresented in STEM and manufacturing.  A STEM Advanced Manufacturing Academy held in Harrisburg brought middle school students together over several Saturdays to see what the high school CTE programs and community colleges could offer. Students went through a variety of activities, met with near-peer mentors, and heard from industry speakers. Their parents who attended were provided with information about college credits and pathways to post-secondary education.

There was no cost to attend and lunch was provided. In addition to the Saturday events, students, families, and sending schools could visit a web site with career applications, salary information, openings in the state, and other information about the industry.

The positive feedback received with this program, in combination with the high need in Philadelphia to expose middle school students to CTE, made Adukaitis think the academies would be a good match for Philadelphia.

Challenges in the Urban Setting

Kipphut chose two schools, South Philadelphia and Mastbaum Jules E. Area Vocational Technical School, to pilot the academies. 

Their first challenge was what to do about the students’ and their families’ limited access to computers and the internet. The full web site developed for other areas to use was made into a one-page flyer that could be sent home with students. Parents were to fill out the flyer and send it back in.

Out of both schools, 32 parents registered. Only five listed phone numbers and no one listed an email address.  This made it difficult to remind students and families about the event.

“Twenty percent of Philadelphia is homeless,” explained Adukaitis. “Also because of the dropout rate, there are less students to reach at the school.” Adukaitis and Kipphut also worked on reaching out to government and technical organizations to reach more of the population in need.

The event at Mastbaum Jules E Area Technical School brought in 17 students and 9 adults. South Philadelphia High School had 13 students in attendance and 2 parents. When asked whether advanced manufacturing careers are male or female or both, more than half of these students said they could be both. Most students did not have anyone working in manufacturing but knew that manufacturing jobs were high-pay, high-demand, and in clean environments. Attendees also responded that they knew they could earn college credits if they graduated from a career and technical school.

Adukaitis and Kipphut knew that these events were beneficial. They just needed to reach more kids.

A Change of Approach

Usually the academies stretch across three different Saturdays. Rather than do the third Saturday at a Philadelphia-area community college, Adukaitis and Kipphut decided to pilot a seventh grade STEM Academy at South Philadelphia High School during the last week of school.  

“We had 178 seventh graders rotating through the career areas, everything from health care to computer networking. The seniors were gone, but the middle school students got to see the second- and third-year students and ask them questions,” said Adukaitis.

The other great advantage to this was the cost. The only cost was for the busses to take the students from the middle school to the high school. Since school was still in session, lunches were still being served and teachers and other staff were also there.

“We used the resources we had to reach a captive audience,” she explained. “We got them out doing something rather than just killing time that last week of school.”

And she said that the surveys were incredibly positive, with many inquiries about applying to programs. 

“It was a learning curve coming to Philadelphia,” she said. “But we will be right there again this school year.” 

She said that additions to the program might include involving another set of sending schools, an advanced manufacturing center, and possibly other urban areas like Pittsburgh.

“Philadelphia is going to need a highly skilled workforce in the future with the amount of development in and around the city,” Adukaitis explained. “We need to reach this age group now so that they will be ready.”


For More Information

Want to get your school involved in an academy? Contact Carol Adukaitis at CaduKaitis@passhe.edu.


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ACTE is committed to enhancing the job performance and satisfaction of its members; to increasing public awareness and appreciation for career and technical programs; and to assuring growth in local, state and federal funding for these programs by communicating and working with legislators and government leaders.



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