Agriculture focuses on scienceWritten by Wilson Stewart
There’s the clanking of test tubes, the rustling of research papers and the frantic last minute fixes to the tri-fold poster. These are all things that one might see and hear when a young agriscientist is preparing for the Wyoming FFA State Agriscience Fair.
In March 2015, the third annual FFA Agriscience Fair was held in Laramie. Members from FFA chapters around the state traveled for miles to participate in this competition.
Inside science fair
Brock Burch, Casper FFA Chapter advisor, explains that students competing in the Agriscience Fair must do many things.
Burch says, “Students select an agriculture research project from six different areas and conduct scientific research.”
“The students write a full-blown research paper and a poster or visual presentation that they present in the science fair format, just like any other science fair,” he continues.
Research papers are evaluated at the state level.
However, the primary factor in the state competition is the oral presentation. This is the chance for the judges to get a true view of both the research project itself and the presentation skills of the researcher.
The next level
Winners in each of the four divisions in each project category are given the chance to compete at the National FFA Convention. However, they are not guaranteed a trip to the national event by winning the State Agriscience Fair alone.
Burch explains, “Nationals has an application process. Students have to be in the top 15 in their division based on their written documentation to even be allowed to present at the National level.”
National FFA only looks at a student’s research paper before deciding if they will present at National Convention. Thus, the researcher is given the opportunity to conduct further research and improve the paper before submitting it to nationals.
For the past several years, the FFA Agriscience Fair has been held separately from other FFA and non-FFA events. Last year, however, things changed slightly.
Stacy Broda, Wyoming FFA Association advisor, explains, “Last year we held our fair in conjunction with the Wyoming HighSchool State Science Fair.”
This was beneficial for some competitors as they were allowed to enter their projects in both contests simultaneously.
Broda continues, “This worked very well for students who competed in both contests to be at two state culminating events in one day.”
Benefits at the school
According to both Broda and Burch, however, the significance of this summative event extends beyond the convenience for competitors. By partnering with the regular high school science fair, other teachers in the schools become more involved in the agriculture side of things.
Broda says, “I think anytime ag education can partner with core curriculum teachers is a good thing for our program as well.”
Science teachers are especially involved. For example, a plant or animal systems project would benefit from the assistance of a biology teacher. A soils project involving pH levels would benefit from the help of a chemistry teacher.
Burch believes that cooperation with the science department is very important.
“I believe that science is critical in agriculture. I believe that’s what agriculture is – science and math. I try to do my very best to teach that in my agriculture classroom,” Burch continues. “The careers in agriculture today are science based and business based. I want my students to be as ready as possible in the science and technology area.”
With the scientific emphasis placed on the agriculture industry, what is the future of the FFA Agriscience Fair?
Burch answers, “I see a lot of growth. This is by far the largest science fair we have ever had.”
Broda has a reason for that, explaining, “The Agriscience Fair diversifies the opportunities we provide to our members. For those students who are more interested in science-based projects, it's a good fit for them.”
The FFA Agriscience Fair is something every member can compete and excel in. And for the more scientifically-minded members of the FFA, it is something that they can enjoy and look forward too.