Meet Katelyn, an Agricultural Engineer!
What made you decide to go into Agricultural Engineering?
I chose agricultural engineering because of my desire to have a positive impact on the world. I thought about studying biomedical engineering or environmental engineering but chose agricultural engineering because of the ability to impact the lives of people across the world and the excitement of a quickly changing field.
My interest in STEM started at an early age. My dad enjoyed building things in his shop and I was always at his side learning the hands-on skills. I also did lots of reading, documentary watching and research to learn more about the “why” behind what my dad was doing.
Can you tell us about any fun projects you have worked on?
One of my favorite projects was when I was working at a seed production facility in rural Iowa. I had to improve the performance of a piece of equipment known as a vision sorter. The vision sorter identifies damage in the seed by comparing it to all of the other seeds that it has seen. It uses a machine vision algorithm to do this very quickly.
The vision sorter was causing more “good” seeds to be thrown away than necessary. I worked with the operators and maintenance teams who worked with the equipment so I could learn more about how it worked. I also talked with seed experts who taught me what different types of damage look like on seeds. I was able to make some changes to the machine and run tests that proved that the machine was having better performance than before.
Have you encountered any challenges as a woman studying Agricultural Engineering?
Yes! Just like engineering, agriculture is a male-dominated field. I have faced a lot of colleagues and classmates that made comments about women not belonging in engineering. I talked to other women in my field and realized that they were told the same thing and they did not let that stop them. Whenever I have doubts, I always turn to my friends and mentors for support.
What do you love most about your school and its Agricultural Engineering program?
The University of Minnesota – Twin Cities focuses on getting their students hands-on experience in their field of study. For agriculture, most of the Saint Paul campus is dedicated to STEM fields related to agriculture. You’ll find horse barns, cow statues, trial fields for crops, etc. It is an immersive environment for those interested in agriculture. Combine that with all the amazing student groups on campus and you have an amazing college experience.
What advice can you share with our readers who are interested in studying Agricultural Engineering?
Talk to people who are currently in the field and explore the different careers that you can go into! Starting the exploration early will give you a leg up if you decide to go to college for agricultural engineering.