Congratulations to Dr. Alex Thomasson for being named ASABE Texas Section Engineer of the Year! The award is given by the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers. Members of the society “put science to work to meet humanity’s most fundamental needs: safe and abundant food; clean water; fiber, timber, and renewable sources of fuel; and life-enhancing and life-saving products from bio-based materials.” Recipients of this award are individuals who provide significant contributions to the agricultural engineering profession through professional excellence and dedication to service.
Dr. Thomasson previously earned the Young Engineer of the Year Award for the Mississippi section in 1991. His research focuses on the engineering aspects of cotton production and processing including remote sensing such as with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and proximal (close-up) sensing such as with a ground-based vehicle. Remote sensing with a UAV, or drone, incorporates a sensor to collect data about an agricultural field it is flying over, and the data are then analyzed by Dr. Thomasson and his students to develop methods of understanding plant needs at a fine level of detail. In addition to this type of precision agriculture research, Dr. Thomasson also explores robotics and automation for agricultural production. This work includes control systems for the UAVs but also field robots. He is currently developing an autonomous high-clearance phenotyping machine that can measure critical plant growth data on tall crops like corn and sorghum, and in 2018 he will be working on potential solutions for robotic cotton harvesting.
Besides research, Dr. Thomasson teaches several courses in the Biological and Agricultural Engineering department. His students learn about designing components of agricultural machinery and how they work together to comprise a system. He also teaches a course in measurement and control, which focuses on the electronics aspects of agricultural engineering. Co-teaching with Dr. Karthikeyan, Dr. Thomasson also teaches the introductory problem solving course in biological and agricultural engineering. This course focuses on writing computer programming solutions to engineering problems in the python programming language. Dr. Thomasson has made a lasting impact on his students and the agricultural engineering field and will continue to do so with his innovative research.
Article by Jessica Schaeffer
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