Meet the Design Team - Phase II

Aaron Yoder

Aaron Yoder

I’m an instructor in the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Penn State University. I received my Bachelors and Masters degrees here and my PhD from the Department of Agricultural and Biological Engineering at Purdue. Throughout graduate school I worked in the area of Agricultural Safety and Health, and while at Purdue, focused on adapting tools for farmers who were recovering from disabling injuries and illnesses. This experience gives me great insight on how to adapt tools and equipment to individuals like you and not make you rely on a one-size-fits-all tool.


Ann Adams

Ann Adams

Growing has been a part of my life ever since I began growing a family. I started out with a large number of houseplants, moved into growing produce on rocky soil at the base of Pennsylvania’s Blue Mountain, and for the past 15 years have been a market grower. I’m also a nurse educator who worked for many years to improve the health of women and children; I’m still doing that, just in a different way. This project is so exciting because: 1) I hate using our current rototiller (same one we’ve had for 18 years); 2) the team is so creative and committed that I literally can’t wait for our meetings; and 3) we are creating something that will work with – not against – women’s bodies, thereby preventing injuries and allowing us (allowing me!) to do what we love for a long, long time.


Bobby Wrye

Bobby Wrye

I love to problem solve and invent new ways of doing things. I have a landscaping business that keeps me busy during the spring, summer and fall, and I plow snow (lots and lots of it this year) during the winter months. One of my hobbies is rebuilding and racing old dirt bikes. Working with engines is part of my job and my hobby. I really love working on the rototiller substitute project as it is a perfect opportunity to create something new and innovative and to test ideas that will lead to a better way of tilling the soil and raising food – something I’m really passionate about.


Jennifer Hess

Jennifer Hess

I am a Research Associate and Ergonomist at the University of Oregon, Labor Education and Research Center where I conduct applied research and outreach to prevent musculoskeletal disorders (MSDs) in high injury-risk working populations such as construction workers, firefighters, and health care workers. I am also a chiropractor in private practice, which allows me to interact with workers after they have been injured on-the-job. These two aspects of my career provide me with a broad understanding of the need for better ergonomic tools and innovations to prevent pain and potentially disabling injuries in women. Women are in general smaller in stature and we have different muscle physiology than our male counterparts. As such we need tools that are designed to meet our unique needs. I am excited about the Green Heron Tools project because I know firsthand that there is no such thing as ‘one-size-fits-all’ when it comes to tools. I hope to contribute my 20 years of research and practice skill toward the design of better, more efficient tools for women.


Joe Sommer

Joe Sommer

I joined Penn State in the fall of 1980, following completion of my Ph.D. from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. I’m now a Professor of Mechanical Engineering and the Professor-in-Charge of graduate programs. During sabbatical leave, I was a Guest Researcher in the Biomechanics Laboratory at the National Institutes of Health. I’ve also worked with the Agricultural Engineering department on research around tractor overturns. The opportunity to help design a new generation of user-friendly rototillers is particularly exciting in that it allows me to combine my personal interests in gardening and large-scale radio control vehicles with my research experience in machine design, biomechanics and vehicle dynamics.


Liz Brensinger

Liz Brensinger

Along with Ann, I’m a co-founder of Green Heron Tools, a Project Director of the Phase II SBIR project, & a long-time organic gardener and market grower with a passion for heirloom tomatoes. This project is giving me lots of opportunities to use “old” skills in new ways; I’ve been a journalist, an adjunct faculty member, a public health professional and a consultant to nonprofits, and many of those experiences have turned out to be invaluable in this process. I love the challenge of breaking new ground (literally & figuratively) and can’t wait to operate a piece of tillage equipment that doesn’t beat me up. But probably most exciting of all to me is the fact that we identified a wrong and are working to right it. It’s crazy and unconscionable that women have had to use equipment designed for men for so many years, and I’m deeply grateful to be where I am today, working with a fantastic & creative team to turn a dream into a long-overdue reality.