The National FFA Organization announced in June the partnership with Microsoft to bring cutting edge technology to the 91st National FFA Convention and Expo. The first time to ever appear at the convention, the Blue Room was a new way for students to focus on the critical challenges facing the agricultural industry.
According to FFA Horizon, “With the vision and commitment of title sponsors Microsoft and AgriNovus Indiana, The Blue Room, a 17,000-square-foot interactive space, will showcase the cutting-edge technology, research, and innovation happening across the spectrum. Through experiential learning and specific focus on the most critical challenges facing our communities — from respecting the planet to the urgent matter of feeding the world — The Blue Room experience serves to inspire and equip students to activate their potential.”
Each day that the Blue Room was open, it had a new theme for the day. Wednesday’s theme was respecting the planet, Thursday was feeding the world, and Friday was improving lives. With multiple sessions for each day, students had many opportunities to participate. We attended the Thursday program, feeding the world, and loved learning about the challenges in agriculture facing the rapidly growing world population. New developments in technology will be needed to meet the challenge.
Dr. Sara Steinlage, chief veterinarian with Elanco spoke about these challenges. “Where the farmable land exist, isn’t necessarily where the population is. Problem? Yeah, it could be. But it is also an amazing opportunity. The solution lies in agriculture. Innovation in agriculture is what is going to allow us to feed the world.”
We met up with a group of students who were just finishing up utilizing Cargill’s virtual reality goggles. They had the option of either the beef or poultry virtual tour. The beef video talked about the important aspects of ranching and how agriculture normally is passed down from generation to generation. The second student chose the poultry tour. His video talked about the life process of the chicken and walked through poultry houses in addition to what resources they have.
During the 90 minute session, we asked a group of students from Indiana what the thought of the new Blue Room.“When we were waiting for the blue room to open, we thought it was going to be just speakers. We were surprised with the more interactive aspect of the Blue Room. We still had two speakers, but the different stations were fun to check out.”
The students also enjoyed the interactive videos while waiting on the Blue Room to open. “We really enjoyed meeting new people in the Blue Room. There was time waiting on the doors to open and we tried to win the prize.” The students continued, “During that time, there were five videos with a question at the end. Your write down your answer for the five questions and you turn in your answers for a chance to be entered in for the prize.” The prize was a brand new Microsoft Go, which was given out at each session. Although they didn’t win the main prize, each student who went through the Blue Room had the opportunity to get some free swag — free Bluetooth headphones. The prize and swag was donated by Microsoft.
The stations at the Blue Room included many interactive booths on display. Companies include BASF, Cargill, Corteva/Granular, Elanco, FMC, Sealed Air, Blue River Technology, John Deere Co., Amazon Web Services, and College Corner. Many of the stations had cutting edge technology such as a 3D printer, virtual reality goggles, and new technology to save our natural resources.
The Blue Room was a start into answering the challenges that face the agriculture industry. With minds of the future, we will have to respond with each challenge we face as an industry. The National FFA Organization is equipping their members with the skills and tools to conquer that challenge.