Technology on full display

Wayzata High School students tour farms

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WAVERLY, Minn. — A group of Wayzata High School juniors and seniors saw something not every student their age sees.

The cybersecurity and applied mathematics students from the school toured two dairy farms that use a robotic milking system May 6.

“It’s a way for these kids to see computer science in a different format, so they are seeing this in a whole different industry and in a practical application,” said Tika Kude, a teacher at Wayzata High School.

Bob and Mike Sawatzke, owners of Creekside Dairy near Waverly, were one of the two locations the students visited. Merryville Farm, also near Waverly, was the second farm visited. 

The Sawatzke brothers have been dairy farming since 2014. In 2021, they installed three Lely A5 robots and are now milking 190 cows.

“It’s nice to let the kids, or anybody who doesn’t have a background or know what we are all about, know what’s going on here,” Bob said. “We like to let them know why we do it and how we do it.”

Mike and Bob said their favorite part of farm tours is showing others the robots. Mike said he enjoys showing the automatic calf feeder.

This was the second year Wayzata High School students toured a farm.

“I love seeing the kids’ reaction to it, by opening their eyes and letting them see there is more to computer science,” Kude said.

During the tour, the students asked questions to learn about all aspects of the dairy farm.

“It’s nice to see the look on their face when they have questions, and you give them the answer and it just clicks,” Bob said.

About half of the students and teachers said they had been on a farm before. For the rest, the experience was a first.

“It’s pretty cool that times have changed,” said Tafif Rahman, a cybersecurity and applied mathematics student. “I imagined everything by hand, and seeing technology improve is pretty cool to see.”

The students said a dairy farm is more connected with technology than they anticipated.

“You wouldn’t think that we are using robots, recognition and data information on a dairy farm in the middle of rural Minnesota,” said Jake Paitrick-Witsoe, a cybersecurity and applied mathematics student.

The students also said they learned that farms use computer software and offer an abundant supply of jobs.

“I was pretty surprised on how much data and technology an average farm in Minnesota can use because they track everything: how much the calves eat, how much the cows eat and how often the cows go to get milked,” Rahman said.

After the students were done with the tour and back in class, they had a group discussion to reflect on the farm tour.

“They learn so much more physically coming out here seeing it, smelling it and touching it,” Kude said.

Throughout this class, Kude said she teaches empathy for people who differ from themselves. This experience allows the students to see a differing lifestyle and ways of using computer science.

“A lot of kids aren’t going to become farmers, but they want to be software developers,” Kude said. “This is a way for them to come up with a unique way where they can help someone in a way they haven’t thought about.”

Mike said he enjoyed sharing cheese with the students at the end of the tour.

“They get a taste of our product,” he said.

Bob said opening their farm to students allows them to see the process of making milk and dairy products, from the beginning to tasting the finished product that is produced from their milk.

For some students, it was not only the cheese they enjoyed.

“The explanation of the logistics is interesting, seeing how they have gone from this farm being 70-80 years old, how all the milk goes through and where it goes is really interesting to think about,” Paitrick-Witsoe said.

The Sawatzkes said they spend time keeping the farm clean every day.

“We do the best we can to take care of our animals every single day,” Mike said.

It does not take a lot of work to prepare for a farm tour when they tend to cleanliness every day, Bob said.

“The way you see it is pretty much how it is,” Bob said. “It’s nice to stay tidy.”

Bob said farm tours could impact the students’ future.

“I’d like to think that some of them might strike up an interest in it after touring,” Bob said.

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