By Sarah Tuff Dunn
Nearly as much as maple syrup and ski slopes, tractors are a motif of Vermont—but driving one safely is more complicated than some might think. So UVM had a unique opportunity lately when Liz Kenton at the Center for Sustainable Agriculture reached out to the school’s FabLab for help ensuring safety among young tractor drivers.
“It started during a conversation at the Vermont Farm Health and Safety Coalition, and I mentioned offhand that I’d love to have a model of a tractor hitch printed,” says Kenton, who received the name of CEMS Director of Communications and Lecturer Jenn Karson from Philip Jones of Project WorkSafe and the Vermont Department of Labor. Karson, in turn, introduced Kenton to Matt Argraves, a staffer at the FabLab.
The most interesting part of the project, says Argraves, was going to the UVM farm and testing out different tractors. Then came building the model, no small feat. “It was really challenging taking this fairly large device and miniaturizing it down to one-sixteenth scale,” he says. “They’d be so small that they would break.”
Eventually, Argraves was able to build a successful model, one that Kenton now uses in teaching tractor safety. “Matt went the extra mile in spending time on the farm and learning about tractors; the details he put into it are just great,” says Kenton. “Now, the model is an attention-getter. It really helps students who are new to tractors become more comfortable.”