Bringing Innovation to Life for College Students

We're committed to investing in STEM education, working with several universities to sponsor senior design projects. Read how students are growing from this partnership.

Raven is an active supporter of universities in our communities because we believe in helping students reach their full potential, particularly in fields related to Science, Technology, Engineering & Math (STEM). Each year, we sponsor senior design projects at universities such as South Dakota School of Mines and South Dakota State University that have the potential to make big impacts for both the students and the ag industry.

Raven-sponsored senior design projects are based upon what's happening within our organization, Engineering Manager Shane Swedlund said. The projects are intended to improve our systems and encourage collaboration between Raven team members and university students.

Once a project is underway, full-time Raven team members serve as technical advisors for the students involved. We typically sponsor two or three projects each year. The number of projects varies depending on availability of technical advisors, viable senior design project ideas, and student availability based on project interest.

At the end of the school year, students present to their professors and at competitions. Both SDSU and the School of Mines host an expo where students present the projects, and SDSU has a competition for students in engineering with judges and prizes. Students typically present their projects at Raven to give more information and to get more team members involved with the project going forward.

Senior design projects show Raven's commitment to growth and build connections between universities and our company. They also give our own team members the opportunity to work with students who might become interns or full-time team members later.

Software Engineer Field Mitchell was a computer science major at the School of Mines before coming to Raven, and he worked on a collision avoidance system for multiple autonomous farming vehicles as part of his senior design project. He was drawn to the project because it sounded challenging and there were a variety of routes that could lead their team to an optimal solution.

This project helped me become a better engineer and a better team member. The best thing a new engineer can receive is guided experience; that is exactly what I got, and I was able to learn a lot from the guidance of my teammates and our sponsors. I improved as a problem solver, and I want to solve challenges more than ever.

— Field Mitchell, Software Engineer

Raven Software Engineer Madeleine Price also worked on the collision avoidance algorithm when she was a computer science major at the School of Mines. She was familiar with Raven after interning here for two summers.

Madeleine knew that Raven is focused on solving big, impactful challenges, so she was excited to work on a problem with real-world application. She said her interactions with Raven before the project had been second-to-none, so she wanted to continue her involvement here.

The collision avoidance algorithm that Madeleine and Field helped develop works for multiple autonomous vehicles working together to cover a field. The autonomous vehicles already have collision avoidance systems in place, but their specific goal was to increase the efficiency of the machines by helping them to avoid and negotiate potential collisions with other machines. With successful negotiation in place, machines don’t require direct human intervention to handle potential collisions.

Raven senior design projects are intended to teach students collaboration and further their development to prepare them for the future. Field and Madeleine both said that they felt this commitment to continuous improvement, and they felt valued by their technical advisors as they worked on the project.

Madeleine said that she learned better collaboration from working on this project, specifically through leveraging multiple people's strengths and working with stakeholders to fully understand the problem in order to find a solution. These are critical skills for engineers to learn.

Field and Madeleine both said that learning from Raven team members was an exceptional experience, and that they were grateful for the firsthand look at Raven's culture.

Everyone that we worked with directly or reached out to for help and guidance was responsive, supportive, and had great ideas for improving our solution. There was a huge wealth of knowledge that we got to draw on as a team, which meant that not only did we learn a lot about algorithm development ourselves, but we got to apply it to create a better deliverable at the end of the class.

— Madeleine Price, Software Engineer

Field worked on the senior design project from Raven's Rapid City, South Dakota office, so he had never been to the headquarters building in Sioux Falls where he now works. He said that despite the distance, he could always tell that team members were invested in answering his questions and offering guidance, whether it was over a call or if they traveled to Rapid City to meet with the students.

"Our advisors, Engineering Team Leads Stephen Fjelstad and Joshua Friedrick, were incredibly helpful for us as a team as they were able to keep us on a good track while not dictating every decision we made," Field said. "This gave us an atmosphere where we could control the course of our project and allow us to learn from any mistakes we made. I learned a lot from being able to make mistakes and know that I had our advisors' full support."

I appreciated the opportunity to tackle a larger, challenging project in a controlled environment. Having that experience in the senior design project gave me valuable experience and confidence to face the challenges I see now as a Raven team member.

— Madeleine Price, Software Engineer

Raven chooses to sponsor senior design projects each year because they are an investment in the future for the students, for STEM fields, and for the agriculture industry. Raven is committed to helping students work on projects with real-world applications that teach them skills for after graduation. The hours that students and Raven technical advisors spend working on projects allow them to push our industry-leading innovations forward and encourage personal development.

We look forward to seeing all the innovations that come from continued partnerships with our universities!