Open

Forget self driving cars, Matt Reimer has a self driving tractor

And he learned how to build it using open courseware from MIT and open source software.

Matt is a grain farmer in Manitoba. Like most farmers (at least the ones I have known in my life) Matt is resourceful and always looking for ways to improve his processes, especially when it comes to saving time. For a farmer, time is critical, especially at harvest when the window of time to get your crop off the field is short.

To help with the harvest, Matt wanted to try to make the tractor that automatically pulls up alongside a combine to collect the harvest. As he talks about in this story from CBC’s excellent weekly tech show Spark, harvesting is normally a 2 person job; one driving the combine, and a second driving a tractor. Normally the tractor driver spends about  5 minutes collecting the grain, then 20 minutes sitting in the tractor doing nothing waiting for the combine hopper to fill up again.

So, he wanted to try to make his tractor doing this automatically and autonomously. Where did he learn how to do this? He found an open course from MIT’s open courseware MITx and taught himself the basics of robotics. He then used open source software to build the robotics that powers the tractor. Bingo. Robot tractor that frees up his hired help to spend their time doing more useful tasks around the farm than sitting around waiting for a hopper to fill up.

Open made this happen. A farmer with a bit of curiosity, access to free and open knowledge and open source software is able to develop a robot that saves him time and money. Love this story.

CC BY 4.0 Forget self driving cars, Matt Reimer has a self driving tractor by Clint Lalonde is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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Wrangler of learning technologies by day, Dad, cyclist, soccer fan and, lately, home roaster of coffee by night. INFJ. I am the Manager of Educational Technologies at BCcampus, working primarily on open education projects. This blog is a personal blog and do not necessarily reflect the opinions of BCcampus.