Working with 3D printers and high-speed cameras, designing machines that are revolutionizing how farmers plant and harvest their crops. What's not cool about Beth Wolfs' job?
Wolfs, who has held positions in both design and manufacturing engineering at John Deere and has six patents to her name, says being a farming innovator is not something she stumbled into, but a job she knew she always wanted. As a child growing up on a farm in Hopkinton, Iowa, she "idolized John Deere equipment" and was fascinated by how it worked. Now she hopes sharing her experience inspires other young women to become our future innovators.
"I want to talk about my story, about John Deere and how women can make a difference in the workforce," Wolfs said. "I think women are still trying to break boundaries or break barriers. I want to let young girls know that we can do engineering and we can do new product design, we can work out in the field, it's not just a man's domain."
Wolfs now works at John Deere Harvester Works in East Moline, Illinois, where she has played a critical role in preparing the factory for producing the new X9 Combine line. Her innovations have improved product quality while also helping ensure employee safety.
I want to let young girls know that we can do engineering and we can do new product design, we can work out in the field, it’s not just a man’s domain.
Wolfs led a team that helped install a chassis fixture for the X9, which is designed to move up and down to meet factory height restrictions and can be adjusted to accommodate various operator heights. The fixture moves in and out for ease of assembly, recognizes part presence with proximity sensors and secures the large parts via pneumatic clamps.
While she now has her "dream job" Wolfs didn't start her career as an engineer, or at John Deere. She first worked in production at a former Maytag facility in Iowa for eight years. She said when the recession hit in 2008, she decided to pursue what interested her most as a child — how machines work. She went on to earn an engineering degree from the University of Iowa and came to work at Deere in 2013.
She says it's exciting to think the work she is doing now may help inspire future generations of farm kids.
"I want to make sure little kids growing up on the farm right now are as intrigued as I was by the John Deere equipment," she said. "And that they either continue to farm or come here to John Deere and make a difference for us and for future generations."