Project title: “Decision making using DAIRI (Data Automation Interface and Real-Time Interaction): a platform for connecting farmers to their data”
Software Engineer, Belcan
UW–Platteville, BS’23 computer science, data science minor
Why did you choose your major?
I chose my major after I learned about programming in high school. I started by creating small math programs on my TI-84 calculator. In college, I started in software engineering, but I liked a lot more of the computer sciences classes, so I changed majors after my freshman year. I like probability and stats, so I also minored in data science when UW–Platteville started to offer it.
How did you get involved in the DAIRI project with Dr. Polebitski?
While at UW–Platteville, I joined the Pioneer Makers Club, which is a club for people that like to make things. During my time as a club member, Dr. Polebitski asked if anyone in the club would be willing to help him design and manufacture a custom automatic door for his chicken coop. That sounded like a fun project to me, so I offered to help. While discussing that project with Dr. Polebitski, I mentioned I was enrolled in the data science program. He asked if I would be interested in helping with the DAIRI project since I already had experience coding in R (the coding language used in the DAIRI project).
Did you have any prior experience with agriculture, and did you ever think that you would apply your skills to the agriculture or data space?
I am from Dodgeville, Wisconsin and I grew up with my grandparents and uncles all farming. I also worked as a machine operator for a farm in high school, so I had quite a bit of experience with agriculture. My uncles own a dairy farm, and my dad is a delivery driver and service technician for a farm supply company, but I didn’t think I would ever use my computer skills for agriculture. I was surprised when I had the opportunity to work in agriculture, and glad I took it.
How did this research experience impact your career path?
I learned that I really enjoy writing automation scripts and want to continue in the future. I also want to get back in the agriculture field in the future, hopefully writing code for self-driving tractors for companies like John Deere. Working on the automatic chicken coop door taught me how much I enjoy solving problems and writing code, as those were my favorite parts of the project.
What advice do you have for other data science students in terms of skills to develop or opportunities to pursue?
My advice for data science students is to try to take advantage of every opportunity they get, even if it seems over their head. “Data science” jobs are still new and can mean drastically different things from company to company. Don’t be afraid to apply somewhere and apply to multiple places. Also, learning coding languages is also a great idea. R and Python are especially useful, and C++ is also good. But just learning any language is good because it teaches you another way to learn and think.
During his senior year at UW–Platteville, Nolan James was a student researcher on the DAIRI project led by Austin Polebitski and Andy Bohnhoff. Nolan leveraged his computer science skills to write code for the platform and analyze preliminary data during the development stages of the project. In addition to the DAIRI project, Nolan helped Polebitski design and manufacture an automated chicken coop door.This article was posted in Annual Report 23.