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National FFA Organization names Iowa resident 2018 Star in Agriscience Winner

By Staff | Nov 2, 2018

INDIANAPOLIS (National FFA Organization) -Not many teenagers have an ethanol-producing facility in their basement, but for Eric Koehlmoos, a student from the South O’Brien FFA Chapter in Paullina, Iowa, it was all part of his supervised agricultural experience (SAE).

Eric’s idea for his high school SAE sprung out of a science fair project for biology class. He looked at the ethanol industry and was curious if ethanol could be made from switchgrass and prairie cordgrass. He began his research, utilizing knowledge from his animal science class.

“A cellulosic ethanol plant and a cow’s rumen are two very, very similar things,” Eric said.

Creating ethanol from prairie grasses, Eric said, is important because it can “better the tool box” for potential energy sources that will eventually replace oil.

“It can help use less of the high-quality ground that we can grow corn on and other types of crops, and then on poor quality ground we can grow switchgrass and prairie cordgrass and produce ethanol,” Eric said.

With his at-home, ATF-approved ethanol facility, Eric had to get creative to match the processes used in a commercial ethanol plant. In high school, his research competed nationally and internationally against the work of college researchers with more funding and better facilities, and Eric said he was proud of and took value in his research experience.

Now, as an agricultural education student at Kansas State University, Eric has participated in research with the Kansas FFA Agriscience Fair, evaluating how the fair can grow and how to deal with barriers that Kansas agricultural education teachers may deal with regarding the fair.

Eric said his goal is to be a high school agricultural education teacher and FFA advisor, utilizing the skills he strengthened through his FFA and research experiences to help “spark some ideas in the next generation of agriculturists.”

He is the son of Lisa and Douglas Koehlmoos. His advisor is Eric Kumm.

About the American

Star Awards

Each year at the National FFA Convention & Expo, four FFA members were honored with American Star Awards for outstanding accomplishments in FFA and agricultural education.

The American Star Awards, including American Star Farmer, American Star in Agribusiness, American Star in Agricultural Placement and American Star in Agriscience, are presented to FFA members who demonstrate outstanding agricultural skills and competencies through completion of an SAE. A required activity in FFA, an SAE allows students to learn by doing, by either owning or operating an agricultural business, working or serving an internship at an agriculture-based business or conducting an agriculture-based scientific experiment and reporting results.

Other requirements to achieve the award include demonstrating top management skills; completing key agricultural education, scholastic and leadership requirements; and earning an American FFA Degree, the organization’s highest level of student accomplishment.

Sixteen American Star Award finalists from throughout the U.S. were nominated by a panel of judges who then interviewed the finalists during the national convention and expo. Four were named winners and received cash awards totaling $4,000. All American Star finalists received a $2,000 cash award. Case IH, Elanco Animal Health and Syngenta sponsor the awards.

Judging occurred in Indianapolis during the 91st National FFA Convention & Expo, Oct. 24-27, with the winners announced during an onstage ceremony on Thursday, Oct. 25.

The National FFA Organization provides leadership, personal growth and career success training through agricultural education to 669,989 student members who belong to one of 8,630 local FFA chapters throughout the U.S., Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is also supported by 344,239 alumni members in 2,051 alumni chapters throughout the U.S.

About National FFA


The National FFA Organization is a national youth organization of 669,989 student members as part of 8,630 local FFA chapters in all 50 states, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. The organization is supported by 459,514 alumni members in 2,236 local FFA Alumni chapters throughout the U.S. The FFA mission is to make a positive difference in the lives of students by developing their potential for premier leadership, personal growth and career success through agricultural education. The National FFA Organization operates under a federal charter granted by the 81st United States Congress and it is an integral part of public instruction in agriculture. The U.S. Department of Education provides leadership and helps set direction for FFA as a service to state and local agricultural education programs. For more, visit the National FFA Organization online at FFA.org and on Facebook, Twitter and the official National FFA Organization blog.

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