The smooth (tractor) operator: Insights of knowledge engineering

Ralph H. Cullen, Cory Ann Smarr, Daniel Serrano-Baquero, Sara E. McBride, Jenay M. Beer, Wendy A. Rogers

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The design of and training for complex systems requires in-depth understanding of task demands imposed on users. In this project, we used the knowledge engineering approach (Bowles et al., 2004) to assess the task of mowing in a citrus grove. Knowledge engineering is divided into four phases: (1) Establish goals. We defined specific goals based on the stakeholders involved. The main goal was to identify operator demands to support improvement of the system. (2) Create a working model of the system. We reviewed product literature, analyzed the system, and conducted expert interviews. (3) Extract knowledge. We interviewed tractor operators to understand their knowledge base. (4) Structure knowledge. We analyzed and organized operator knowledge to inform project goals. We categorized the information and developed diagrams to display the knowledge effectively. This project illustrates the benefits of knowledge engineering as a qualitative research method to inform technology design and training.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1122-1130
Number of pages9
JournalApplied Ergonomics
Issue number6
StatePublished - Nov 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • Human factors
  • Knowledge engineering
  • Tractor operators

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Human Factors and Ergonomics
  • Physical Therapy, Sports Therapy and Rehabilitation
  • Safety, Risk, Reliability and Quality
  • Engineering (miscellaneous)


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