Food Insecurity

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Team Name Children of the Corn
  • College of Engineering
  • Team Members
  • Drew Owens
  • Josh Warnick
  • Spencer Hauck
  • Justin Nesbitt
  • Duration Fall 2017 - Spring 2018
    Client Dr. Dan Robertson


    Faculty Advisers Dr. Dan Robertson


    Mentor Colton Bailey

    Team Mission

    To create a Marketable product that measures stalk strength and is durable and user friendly to the agricultural industry.



    During the Fall semester of 2016 & the Spring semester of 2017 the team working on the Food Insecurities project created a device that measures the stalk strength of corn using the bending moment created by pushing the corn stalk over until it breaks. They were able to create a device that has since gone out in to the field and been used by seed research companies like Monsanto.


    Corn Cross section food insecurity.jpg

    The structure of a corn stalk has two parts, a outer layer called a rind and a inner layer called pith. Rind is high in cellulose and provides most of the structural support for the corn stalk. The pith is the soft inner layer of the corn stalk and provides the means to provide nutrient transportation throughout the corn stalk. Stalk lodging is defined as breakage of the stalk below the ear.Every year the annual loss to corn from stalk lodging is between 5%-25%, it can also cause an increased harvest time, drying costs, and can cause volunteer corn the next planting cycle.

    The corn stalk grows at points called nodes, and it is just above these points where the highest stresses occur. It is at these points where we are trying to calculate the strength of the corn stalk.

    Stalk Sections Food Insecurity 2017.jpg

    Design Task[edit]

    Problem Statement

    Dr. Daniel Robertson of the Mechanical Engineering Department wants to create a smaller, quicker, easier to use device that uses non-destructive testing to measure the stalk strength of corn. This device must be quicker than the current device and easy for the operator to use all day.


    1. The device must be able to be operated by one person and be able to take its measurements and show the results within 30 seconds.

    2. The device must be able to last a full work day and must use non-destructive testing to measure the stalk strength.

    3. A working device must be complete by the end of the Fall 2017 semester.

    4. Create documentation for how to connect the wires of the robot so that they may be unplugged and moved easily if needed.

    Design Specifications[edit]

    Specs and Constraints Food Insecurity 2017.PNG

    Specs and Constraints Food Insecurity 2017 part 2.PNG

    Design Process[edit]

    Mechanical Components

    The design of our device uses a several key components - a linear actuator, load cell, needle, and back plate. The Linear actuator is used to push the needle attached to the load cell through the stalk to gather data on force. The back plate is used as a support for the stalk allowing for more accurate force measurements. The back plate is also used as a absolute zero when measuring distance with the linear potentiometer attached to the actuator. This data is then graphed and shown on a touch screen on top of the device.

    Actuator food insecurity 2017.png

    Electrical Components

    The device uses a Raspberry Pi and a Arduino Controller to run the software and algorithms to create the force distance graph giving the stalk strength and diameter. The software is also able to track where the sample was taken using GPS and the plot number of the sample is able to be inputted.

    Electrical Componets Food Insecurity 2017.jpg

    Project Learning[edit]


    Most of the software has already been developed by the previous device's team, however changes must be made to allow for how the force is gathered relative to the distance of the needle.


    The team worked together and with the team mentor in the machine shop to begin creating the needles, chuck adapter, load cell adapter, and actuator connector that will be used in device.

    Project Designs

    Actuator design food insecurity 2017.JPG

    Hand powered design Food Insecurity 2017.JPG

    Gas Spring Food Insecurity 2017.JPG

    Team Members[edit]

    Josh Warnick

    My name is Josh Warnick. I am a Mechanical Engineering student at the University of Idaho. I am from Lewiston Idaho and enjoy long walks on the beach and enjoying the outdoors.

    Drew Owens

    I’m an electrical engineering student interested in electromagnetics and antenna design. I’m from Coeur d’Alene where I met my wife and discovered a love for woodworking.

    Spencer Hauck

    I'm from Post Falls, Idaho. He is a senior at the University of Idaho, seeking a B.S. in Mechanical Engineering. His desire is to use his knowledge to innovate new products that will improve the lives of others.

    Justin Nesbitt

    I am a Biological Engineering major from Meridian. As I have grown up, I have always enjoyed trying to figure out how things work and have been fairly successful at putting them back together again.