- Associated Press - Monday, June 5, 2017

TYNDALL, S.D. (AP) - When it comes to their latest project, Mark Misar’s students are on a roll.

Or more accurately, they’re working on a land roller. The equipment levels fields by smashing down rocks and soil.

The Bon Homme High School students in the Ag Engineering and Welding classes spent the spring semester designing and constructing a land roller 30 feet wide and weighing 14,000 pounds.

As the high school’s agriculture instructor, Misar looked for a project providing his students with hands-on experience.

“It’s a very broad subject area,” he told the Yankton Daily Press and Dakotan (https://bit.ly/2rRqrxI ). “Over the course of the school year, I teach 11 different classes. They range anywhere from welding to food science. It’s quite a spectrum of courses.”

Misar, who farms near Tyndall, started with the Bon Homme school district as a substitute teacher. He enjoyed the experience and eventually joined the staff, now completing his fifth year.

“We actually started with a big project three years ago. The kids really enjoy it,” he said. “They’re using what they learn in their ag engineering class. At the end of the first year, kids were asking what we were doing for the next year’s big project.”

And so, the annual “big project” was born.

This year’s project idea actually came from parents, Misar said.

“They had the thought that we would rent out the land roller to area farms. It could be a fundraiser for our FFA chapter,” he said. “The plan is to rent it out for $2.25 an acre. Hopefully, people are willing to try it out and use it. A lot of people have fields that are rolled, but not everyone has one of these machines.”

The student-made land roller offers an attractive financial benefit for area farmers, Misar said.

“Some (land rollers) made by factories are so big and fairly costly. It’s hard for farmers to justify buying one,” he said. “If I had to guess, I would say a new one costs $18,000 to $20,000. We did it for substantially less, around $10,000. We received private donations to fund this project.”

School administrators have been very supportive of FFA and agriculture classes, with the land roller idea as the most recent example, Misar said.

“Since the school wasn’t paying for any materials, it made it an easier OK (from school officials),” he added.

The parents suggested the project last fall, allowing Misar time to plan the work and materials.

“We had a game plan where I could get materials and other things over Christmas break,” he said. “We started in January. It took the entire semester to complete this (project). The kids got the materials in January, and things took off.”

The project began with 32 feet of steel pipe, 130 feet of square tubing, two pieces of sheet metal, 12 feet of solid shaft and an old International 800 planter.

The steel pipe weighs approximately 250 pounds per foot, and the square tubing weighs approximately 25 pounds per foot.

“We started out by designing and coming up with our own plans. That way, there wouldn’t be issues with copying somebody else,” Misar said. “We also came up with our own design to save money and to reduce costs for the project.”

Next, the classes dismantled the planter and removed everything needed to build the land roller. Once all the materials were prepped and ready, students started cutting the square tubing for the frame as well as circular plates to hold the shafts on each end of the steel pipe in place.

“Cutting the materials was the most time-consuming and tedious part of this project,” Misar said.

The three-section roller consists of a 12-foot-wide middle section and two 10-foot-wide side sections. Special homemade hinges allow the wings to fold behind the middle during transport. The design also provides substantial flexibility over uneven terrain during field operation.

The right section of the land roller uses hydraulically-operated wheels that turn to unfold the machine. Brackets hook to the front section for field operation.

The land roller is lifted by five hydraulics and six wheels, all which came from the International planter. The frame from the planter was also used for attaching the wheels to the land roller as well as for the brackets that attach the steel drums to the frame.

Once assembly was completed, the machine was primed and painted FFA colors. The steel drums, hydraulics and rims are painted corn gold, while the frame and hitch are painted national blue.

Misar praised the students’ united effort on the project.

“Everybody did a great job. We worked as a team,” he said. “Usually, one or two kids were drilling holes or two kids were measuring and cutting and welding. We tried to rotate those students through those jobs so they got some practice.”

Misar and the students wanted to give the land roller a trial run before showcasing it to the general public.

“We tried it out in the field, and it did just fine,” the teacher said. “The school board members and administrators were very impressed with the work. The outlet where we got the steel thought it was just incredible that students would be able to do this and make it happen.”

Misar provided some guidance, but the students took on the project as their own. The class members learned from their mistakes as well as their successes, he added.

“This really was a group effort,” he said. “There were days we didn’t get a lot done. Sometimes, we would try something that didn’t work, and then we would take it apart and examine what we were doing. It’s all part of the learning experience.”

In the end, one of the greatest challenges came in deciding how and where to store the equipment while work remained in progress, Misar said.

“We didn’t have a building that was big enough to put a 30-foot piece of equipment, so (in the end) we put together and attached the three sections,” he said. “We pulled it off and made it work.”

The class showed a willingness to work on the project outside of school time, Misar said.

“These students were very green when they started this thing, but they showed great enthusiasm and work ethic,” he said. “I really want to commend their hard work and accomplishments. As a teacher, I’m very pleased, and the students are happy.”

As a result of the project, the Bon Homme students gained confidence, developed accountability and learned traits that will help them in any field, Misar said.

The students declined comment for this story. However, they indicated to Misar that their future plans include farming, mechanic work and non-agricultural fields.

“I really believe in a hands-on experience,” the teacher said. “I had people ask me why I’m doing such a big project. It would be a lot easier if we did something smaller, but I really consider it a long-term investment in the students.”

And the teenagers are responding to the challenge, Misar said.

“We have students who are already asking what project we have lined up for next year,” he said.

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Information from: Yankton Press and Dakotan, https://www.yankton.net/

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