Farm hacking: 7 amazing corn mazes

scott_skelly_corn_maze

If there’s one thing we’ve got a LOT of here in America, it’s corn. In the past few years Corn Mazes have become a wildly popular fall activity for all ages. We’ve enjoyed many ourselves and part of what we like about them is that they’re a hack. Whether made by the farmer down the road or a professional company most now use GPS to ensure a fun, challenging, and cool looking corn maze.

We spoke with [Scott Skelly] who owns Corn Mazes America, read the interview after the break. When [Scott] originally started building corn mazes they were using a grid system to layout the mazes without GPS. He knew there was a better way and started looking into some solutions. He spent quite a bit of time looking for software and talking to developers about how to meet his needs. In the end, he designed his own system using both commercial and freely available software, getting everything to talk to each other for his final product. Here’s one of his designs from 2006 at his own farm in Wisconsin:

2006aerialmaze

A maze starts as nothing more than a large field of corn. The design is created using a computer, then translated into GPS coordinates by fitting it into a field whose outline coordinates were previously captured on foot. Once the field coordinates are reconciled with the map design the data is used in one of two ways; the routes can be made by tilling under a path when the corn is very young, or more commonly it is cut lawn-mower-style when the corn is anywhere from knee-high to full grown. This corn-meets-satellite hack makes for a whole lot of fun!

We’ve collected 7 more of our favorite corn maze aerial pictures and posted them after the break. When you’ve finished building your zombie escaping from the grave load up the family and visit your local maize maze.

vote_corn_maze

2008 Sever’s Corn Maze, Shakopee, MN

burlington_l

2002 Fairwyn Farms, Burlington, WI (photo: cornfieldmaze.com)

maze2009

2009 Tom’s Maze, Germantown, OH

kc_chiefs_maze

2004 Liberty Corn Maze, Liberty, MO

2009_Corn_Maze_000

2009 Jonamac Orchard, Malta, IL

Larsons_Corn_Maze_2005_sm

2005 Larson’s Farm Market Maze, New Milford, CT

uncle_shucks_maze07

2007 Uncle Shuck’s, Dawsonville, GA

Comments

  1. monkeyslayer56 says:

    im not much of one for corn mazes but i like that guys laptop holder :)

  2. Doug says:

    Would have been more interesting to read that the laptop drove the mower, and how. Then again my guess the man isn’t going release too many details to potential competition. Tough it wouldn’t be very tough to figure out how to do this manually following a computer display or the display of a GPS unit that has a track entered into it. And to think in th old days they had to actually lay out the maize on the ground, plant trees and wait until the trees are tall enough to be effective. Today it can be done in one seasion, with a new maize maze every year.

  3. Tim says:

    Surely you mean maize mazes? :-)

  4. Byron says:

    Of course, using some off the shelf software, we can hack the maze- and create our own gps map of the maze, too. Here’s a garmin gps map I created to “beat the maze” at Anderson Farm in CO this year.

    http://www.byrini.com/blog/2009_09_01_archive.html#1374631613969936955

  5. 24601 says:

    the Lincoln corn maize above is currently running near Fort Lincoln, south of Mandan, ND, with a few changes.

  6. Kevin says:

    The first farm (Skelly’s) is actually located in my hometown of Janesville, WI. Who know there was a hackaday-material hacker right in my backyard :)

  7. djrussell says:

    you know the low-tech way to hack a maze right? always keep your hand on the same wall. follow it the whole time and you’ll get out eventually.

  8. thethirdmoose says:

    djrussell, that only works if there are no loops in the maze.

  9. craftyguy says:

    @thethirdmoose
    You’d have to get into the loop somehow :)
    Unless, I suppose, you were dropped into it somehow.

  10. thethirdmoose says:

    Suppose there’s something like this (I hope the formatting works):

    =======
    | |
    | |
    | |
    ===========[rest of maze]

    Then if you follow the right wall, you never get to the rest of the maze.

  11. thethirdmoose says:

    It didn’t work… here goes.

    =======
    ..|…|
    ..|…|
    ..|…|
    ..===========[rest of maze]

    where the | and = are paths and . are placeholders

  12. andrew says:

    @thethirdmoose: sure you will. eventually that path will end, which means you will then be on the other side of the pathway in your diagram which will take you to [rest of maze].

  13. theTick says:

    Does that laptop remind anyone else of typing of the dead?

  14. cyanide says:

    the corn maze in my town is made of charles darwin.

  15. cjac says:

    this post would’ve been interesting but there were no mentions of anything arduino-related.

  16. riazap says:

    @cjac

    STFU. You arduino haters are the scum that’s ruining this site.

  17. Neckbeard says:

    No Arduino, No hack. @riazap STFU You Arduino whores are ruining hacking. =]

  18. TJ says:

    So someone start a paypal fund to pay for someone to do a corn maze OF an arduino…

    Who’d be in on that?

  19. riazap says:

    @Neckbeard No, Arduino is making hacking more accessible to more people, which is a very good thing and opens up many doors to people. I’m fucking sick of assholes you like who want to keep hacking ‘elite’, locked up, inaccessible, and hostile.

  20. saimhe says:

    Pictures show some kind of “professional” GPS rigs, most likely with DGPS. I personally don’t believe that details of this size are possible with ordinary Bluetooth receivers even if: 1) perfect sky visibility like here, 2) placed on a mast and always kept vertically like here, 3) SBAS is engaged (this one, at least in Europe, apparently does not improve accuracy). With these I would expect straight lines etc. only on a 20-meter or larger grid. Is your experience different?

  21. I know I can’t be the only one that grew up around corn. In Indiana it’s a way of life. There are two things most of us enjoy here in IN and it’s corn and technology. This is so cool when you think people flying over these locations can see them almost plainly. One thing I like to do whilst flying is constantly scanning the ground for crop circles :P I would love to help design one of these mazes.

  22. David Sutherland says:

    Does anyone know of a vehicle that will drive a postscript plot?

    I’d love to have it hacked with a wildflower seed hopper.

    Been wanting to do this for a long time…

    paint a huge field with a corporate logo using vivid wildflowers near an airport… any takers out there? I’ll work on leasing fields and selling ads if you can design the gear.

  23. Hob says:

    Its goddamn aliens thats for sure

  24. Chris says:

    @saimhe – you can get close to 1 meter/3 foot accuracy with WAAS (North America Coverage). i can plot out the corners of my house pretty accurately on my $300 handheld garmin unit. There’s no real need for any “professional” equipment, just someone with the know how with the tech and is willing to follow the lines on the screen. If you drive slow enough (walking speed) when cutting the path, there is really no chance that you’ll over run the upcoming turn. I suggest you get a quality gps device and experience how simple it is instead of spouting your lack of understanding. oh, and bluetooth has nothing to do with gps… completely different tech. bluetooth works at about 10 meters/30 feet max, while gps comes from satellites a good 30,000 km above the earth…

    @David Sutherland – you pay me more than $30 an hour, and i’ll walk the paths to paint your wildflower billboards!

  25. Neckbeard says:

    @riazap

    Basically you’ve just said in not so many words, that you can’t hack. You require Fisherprice tools to enable you to “hack”. I am sick and tired of assholes like you who think Hacking is just a trendy thing to do.

    I’m sick and tired of you assholes who’ve dumbed down and ruined what at one point took a long point to achieve excellence.

  26. eric says:

    Neckbeard,
    I totally agree with you. Newton was a total punk ripoff for “standing on the shoulders of giants”.

    I believe that hacking in its truest sense is about the triumph of achievement, not the pain required to achieve it.

    Case in point: I took an embedded systems design class where we started with an 8051 chip, and added a power & reset circuit, an oscillator, an external latch, external memory, a MAX232 chip for serial communication, and wrote our own c library to bit-bang LCD communication.

    I learned two important things in that class:
    1. Building things yourself is very cool, and gives you a great sense of accomplishment.
    2. If you want something done in less than 200 hours, just spend the $40 and get a microcontroller that already has all the functionality that you want!

    I mean no disrespect, but please let people hack in the manner that suits them best.

  27. riazap says:

    @Neckbeard:
    Thanks for so perfectly proving my point, on all accounts. You really are what’s wrong with the hacking world.

  28. CDWatter says:

    Many farmers are already using high-grade GPS rigs on their equipment, so no suprise they could leverage for their maize mazes. On the fence about this being a HACK in the traditional sense, since the same software used to plan efficient plowing/planting can obviously be used to design some really nice artwork, but I’d argue that using the technology in a way the designers probably never intended is indeed a hack.

  29. saimhe says:

    @Chris:
    thanks for confirming my fears, apparently our EGNOS really has no benefit for ordinary civilian user. I have seen similar complaints on gpspassion.com (originally a French site), and the guys there test various devices, not only el-cheapo ones.

    That is, I should actually move to USA to experience that 1-meter accuracy :) But here, after the receiver is fastened on a similar homemade mast, I usually still see position drift of a few meters.

    By “Bluetooth” I mean typical bare receivers that cost about $100. These are *not navigators*: no maps, no screen, only raw position output (the latter is completely enough for me and I don’t see any reason to pay for things that will be rarely used). Bluetooth is very relevant here because it’s their de facto standard for data transfer. Even worse, nowadays lots of these receivers have *only* BT, and no wired output whatsoever.

    Surprisingly or not, SiRF III chipset (very common in these receivers) is also used in Garmin GPSMAP 60CSx. Which, I believe, you would call a “quality” one – right? Which one do you have, by the way?

  30. Fish says:

    I went to the one in MN, it was kind of cool actually, I had more fun jumping around in the pit of corn though

  31. bob says:

    @saimhe As far as I know almost all GPS recievers are using some kind of differential signal. I believe that EGNOS is roughly equivalent to WAAS.

    From personal experience on a farm, I know that WAAS (free US based correction) will give “sub-meter” accuracy. I am not sure if that is a moving number or if it will average to sub meter. I know that there are better systems. On our farm we use an RTK system with our local base station. John Deere marketing quotes that we have sub inch accuracy. It is possible to do automated guidance of a tractor with WAAS corrections but personally the accuracy is not good enough.

    From the picture it looks like they are using a Trimble receiver. Trimble is also a big company in tractor guidance so they would have the capability for sub inch accuracy. Without actually talking to the farmer there is no way to judge accuracy.

  32. yoscratch says:

    we had an autosteer unit on one of our tractors with gps that could track within a few inches. you could even skip one pass and come back and hit it right on the button. this stuff is really cool for only $15,000.

  33. Ken Haumschilt says:

    Amaizing!!

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