4-H Science of Ag Challenge continues to evolve

The 3rd Annual 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge kicked off earlier this week as teams from eight counties came together at the University of Minnesota to present their solution to an agriculture-related issue. This year’s group tackled topics ranging from efficient fencing to optimal turkey bedding in a competition that instilled confidence in future generations of leaders in agriculture.

After the semifinals on day one, four teams representing Le Seur, Douglas, Sherburne and Itasca counties competed in a 30-minute presentation in front of judges representing numerous aspects of agriculture. Respectively, their topics focused on growing careers in agriculture, bedding for turkeys, the effect of zombie flies on the bee population and increased fence implementation efficiency.

At the end of the day, judges chose the team from Itasca County as the first-place finisher. The team’s project centered on the creation of ATV Fencing Buddy, which is an apparatus installed on an ATV that cuts the time and effort needed to build a one or two-strand fence around a farm field.

With a spooling mechanism on the back to draw out the line as the ATV is moving, operators could then use a container on the front to pull the fence posts from and drop off as they move down the line.

Like all participating teams, Team Itasca worked with a mentor. Their mentor worked in engineering at Polaris and helped design a system that was both less bulky and more durable in cold weather when compared to competitors.

The Minnesota Corn Growers Association has been a long-time supporter of the Science of Agriculture Challenge, and goal to create a broader view of agriculture among the younger generation, grades six through 12. Nearly early five years later the competition has made great strides in accomplishing that mission, according to Brad Rugg, state program director for science of agriculture and fairs with University of Minnesota Extension.

“It started as a pie-in-the-sky idea, and has really taken off from there,” he said.

And Minnesota will no longer be the only state with the competition, according to Rugg. Seven states will be moving forward with a version of the program in the coming years.

Michael Compton, extension educator in youth development with University of Minnesota Extension, said strategically spread out regional competitions is one of the ways the overall competition has improved and student participation has increased. As soon as the finishing touches are made on this year’s event, evaluation will kick off for 2018.

“You learn as you go with improvements each year, but it has been very exciting to see it grow,” Compton said.

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