DANVILLE, Va. – Jokingly saying "Goodbye," Gov. Ralph Northam climbed into a self-driving Gator at the Institute for Advanced Learning and Research Tuesday and went for a ride around the institute's parking lot.
Northam visited the institute to promote computer science in honor of National Computer Science Education Week.
At the institute, he met with farmers to learn how the institute is using computer science to help farmers and how computer science is being used in farm equipment.
"Agriculture and forestry is our number one industry in the commonwealth, so we need to do everything that we can to promote that industry," Northam said.
He said the use of computer science in those industries is part of moving into the 21st century.
"We have a tractor here as well using GPS, to map out the fields, using drones to monitor the growth of our crops, if they need more water, if they need more fertilizer. So it just makes things a lot more efficient," Northam said, talking about how computer science is being used in the agriculture industry.
Pittsylvania County farmer Robert Mills agrees and is using computer science to upgrade his poultry house.
"We're putting in a master computer right now as we speak that will control my entire facility," Mills explained.
He said many other farmers are embracing computer science as well.
"It's making us more efficient and it's making us better managers of the resources that we're looking after," Mills said.
Prior to meeting with farmers, Northam spoke to dozens of Danville middle school students who were at the institute learning how computer science is being used in agriculture.
"To get versed in computer science, to learn about STEM-related careers, to learn about coding, all of these things are so important as you move forward to go into careers like cybersecurity and unmanned aerial systems," Northam said.
After speaking to the students, Northam joined them in a lab as they listened to a presentation about using computer science to monitor plants.
"It's really fun," eight-grader Xvavion Williamson said. "You get to learn new stuff that we never even knew about. I didn't know a plant actually moved by itself."
Tuesday's visit to the institute was part of Northam's Digital Dominion tour around the state.