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South O’Brien Iowa’s top FFA science chapter

By Staff | May 6, 2011

South O’Brien FFA member Evan Magnussen works on his winning star agriscience project.

PAULLINA – Six South O’Brien FFA members set themselves apart from the rest during the Sceince/Agri-science competition held in April at Iowa State University in Ames.

The competition was part of the annual State Science and Technology Fair of Iowa Competition.

“We have taken part in the FFA agriscience competition since 2005,” said Eric Kumm, South O’Brien FFA adviser. “But this is the first year the Iowa FFA Agriscience fair has been in correlation with the SSTFI event.

“Our ag and science programs at South O’Brien have a good partnership.” Science instructor Kevin Basser requires that all of the freshmen students have a science fair project.

“As the FFA adviser,” Kumm said, “I try to encourage all of our freshmen FFA members to gear their projects toward an interest they may have in an agriculture area so that they can also compete in the State FFA agriscience fair.”

South O'Brien AgriScience winners are, from left: Front row -- Erin Brasser first place agriscience student of the year, first place Division II overall, first place food science; and Kellie Einck, environmental sciences, first place Division 1. Back row -- Austin Rohrs, winner overall Division I first place zoology; Evan Magnussen, overall star agriscience and second place agriscience student of the year; Kelly Puhrman, engineering, first place Division 1; and Andrew Richter, botany, second place Division 1.

He said that over the past few years, the chapter has seen a rise in the quantity and quality of the FFA projects being researched.”It’s a great way for the students to see the connection agriculture has with the various areas of science – zoology, botany, food science, engineering and environmental – while incorporating educational rigor and relevance,” Kumm said.

Of South O’Brien’s 57 FFA members, 10 entered the science competition.

Out of that 10, the school saw three first place awards in division 1 and another in division 2.Three of them will advance to the international competition.

Members received several second and third place finishes as well as honorable mentions.

The overall FFA Agriscience Student of the Year winner, Erin Brasser, is a junior at South O’Brien.

Winning this competition not only won her $750 cash, but also a trip to New York City to compete in the National Science and Technology competition later this year.

Brasser’s six-year study on the cranberry has led her to conduct research on the existence of an anti-aging molecule “trans-resveratrol” found in the cranberry’s skin.

“I plan to continue my agriscience project in the next year and study the trans-resveratrol content in over-the-counter supplements,” She said.

Other award winning projects include:

  • Junior Evan Magnussen’s overall second place project on preventing soil erosion using feathers, a “free” by-product of the poultry industry.
  • Freshman Kellie Einck’s study of Xylitol, a five-carbon sugar found in corn stalks, with which she was able to make ethanol.
  • Freshman Austin Rohrs’ “Hog Wild” showed that conventional swine feed is more productive and profitable for the pork producers than organic feeds.
  • Freshman Andrew Richter’s study of which manure worked best for growing corn proved that hog manure was best.
  • Freshman Kelly Puhrman’s engineering project was to make a sterling heat engine. With the engine he answered yes to the question, “Can an engine run on heat alone?”
  • Another honor for the school was the Hall of Fame award given to S-O science instructor Kevin Brasser.

The award recognizes the achievements and accomplishments of those people who contribute generously in many ways to Iowa’s science fair.

Contact Robyn Kruger at rangerob@hickorytech.net.

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