LASCASSAS, Tenn. — Minutes before 5 p.m. Thursday, there was a buzz about the MTSU Farm, and we’re not talking about the beehives in the apiary.
A good-size crowd — a mix of young and old — gathered, with all peering toward the sky. Several hundred yards above them, an unmanned aerial vehicle — or drone — flew in a computer-generated pattern across the nearby fields.
Its on-ground commander, Greg Barton of Tri-Green Equipment, began bringing the UAV safely to the ground as the onlookers watched in amazement.
The drone demonstration was just one facet of the annual MTSU Farm Laboratories Open House, held on the 438 acres adjacent to Guy James Road in Lascassas, Tennessee.
At their leisure, the public and MTSU communities could tour the gardens, the apiary where honey was for sale, the MTSU Dairy atop the hill and more. But most people waited in anticipation of the hamburgers and hot dogs grilled by MTSU students.
Along with the food, face painting and petting of cows by children at the dairy, the UAV flight demonstration and table displays were featured attractions at the event.
“We’re working with our aerospace department to partner with them (in research areas),” said Matthew Wade, director of the farm laboratories, also known as the MTSU Experiential Learning and Research Center.
“We’re working with the FAA to get MTSU aerospace to fly drones over the farm, which will happen soon,” Wade added. “Their students will use classroom instruction, so practical knowledge will be gained.”
Aerospace operations manager and UAV expert Doug Campbell and School of Agribusiness and Agriscience assistant professor Song Cui shared their drone knowledge with adults and children in attendance.
Barton and MTSU alumnus Tyler Hobson brought several UAVs at the invitation of senior agribusiness major Jonathan Young of Lascassas.
Murfreesboro’s Jim Tracy and his children — Kenton, 7, Carson, 9, and Ellison, 11 — asked a number of questions about drones.
“The distance was very far,” Carson Tracy said of the flying drone.
Little brother Kenton Tracey said seeing cows and petting one made his day.
McKay Carroll, 8, enjoyed watching cows being milked and discovering that MTSU makes honey.
School of Agribusiness and Agriscience Director Warren Gill told the crowd the event “is all for our students and the community. We’re still on the way. There are always improvements to be made.”
About 200 of the estimated crowd of 400 people were children.
A number of students briefly explained about the agriculture organizations they’ve joined on campus.
The MTSU chocolate milk was, as always, a hit. Making a sensation was the new MTSU chocolate ice cream, manufactured by Lebanon, Tennessee-based Two Fat Men Ice Cream Company, owned by Ed Riley.
“They are taking the same ingredients — cream and chocolate powder — we use in our chocolate milk, and he (Riley) calls it ‘MTSU chocolate,’” Wade said.
The 2015 open house will be held next September. For more information, call 615-898-2523.