Originally published October 9. Updated on October 14 with Story County AgOvation team photo.
AMES, Iowa – In the midst of many changes over the last year, two teams of youth showcased their hard work and entrepreneurial spirit, competing in the second annual AgOvation program finals on Sept. 26.
AgOvation is a research-based competition that challenges youth to explore and develop innovative, science-based solutions to agricultural problems that they identify in their own communities. Youth in grades 7 through 12 work in teams to develop a project and create a presentation to share their results.
In a virtual event this year, participants were asked to design a solution to a local agricultural problem and pitch their ideas to a panel of expert judges. Expert judges this year were Mike Anderson, 4-H program specialist with Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, Yamille Perez, outreach coordinator for Women in Science and Engineering at Iowa State, and Don McDowell from the Iowa Farm Bureau.
The first-place team, Shreya Srinath and Ananya Balaji from Story County, presented their work on improving water quality by removing excess nutrients. They used chemistry and engineering to devise two methods, one for removing phosphate and one for removing nitrates. These strategies could be implemented in buffer strips and bioreactors at the edge of fields to reduce nutrient contamination in water ways.
The second-place team included Zach Erpelding from Cherokee County, and Kaydon Erpelding and Levi Steinkamp from Sac County. Inspired by all the downed corn this year following the derecho, the three youths came up with revamping the corn snoot by adding a chain drive to it, and little fingers to grab the downed corn to help the farmer save time and money.
Both teams received college scholarship prizes. The AgOvation program helps develop the future workforce of agricultural scientists, engineers and technologists. Participants gain important life skills that empower them to become productive citizens, outstanding communicators, effective leaders and successful learners.
One youth noted, “I have learned so much about ag, chemistry and engineering, as well as research on regulations and processes established on farms. We also gained responsibility by setting weekly goals and deadlines.”
“This program provides an opportunity for youth to work with a team coach and mentor from the agriculture related field that most closely relates to their project,” said 4-H youth program specialist Maya Hayslett. “Youth are also encouraged to connect with representatives from Iowa State University and the agribusiness community, who are eager to meet and work with the next generation of leaders in agriculture and STEM.”
“In this unique year, we were glad to be able to continue to offer a chance for 4-H’ers to build skills in an environment that allowed for this sense of belonging,” said 4-H youth program specialist Ben Pullen. “Every participant this year said the best part of their AgOvation project was the chance to work with their friends.”
Registration for next year’s program will open this winter. To register, contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office youth program. For more information contact Maya Hayslett, firstname.lastname@example.org.
Photo caption: (Left to right) Ananya Balaji and Shreya Srinath were the winning AgOvation team from Story County.