UACES Facebook Alpena High School senior wins Soybean Science Challenge Award
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Alpena High School senior wins Soybean Science Challenge Award

By Ryan McGeeney
The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Fast Facts:

• Alpena wins 1st place in state competition for soybean research

• Soybean Science Challenge designed to engage students in research opportunities

 Students invited to participate in regional challenges leading to state competition


(614 words)

LITTLE ROCK — A 17-year-old Alpena student used a study of light intensity and its effects on three major Arkansas crops to win the state-level Soybean Science Challenge Award earlier this month.

Taylor Hensley, a senior attending Alpena High School won the award during the 2015 Southwestern Energy Arkansas State Science & Engineering Fair, held April 4 at the University of Central Arkansas in Conway. Hensley had previously won the Northwest regional Soybean Science Challenge Award during the March 20 Northwest Arkansas Regional Science & Engineering Fair at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville.

Hensley’s 12-week project measured the effects of direct sunlight and shade on three rows each of cotton, soybeans and corn, all of which she planted for the project. Using a light meter to record daily light intensity levels, Hensley noted significant differences in growth, calcium and chlorophyll production and soybean pod and bean mass between the shaded and unshaded groups.

 Hensley was awarded $300 at the regional level and $1,000 at the state level for her winning project. The cash awards were provided by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board.

 Hensley, who has also won awards for research from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Arkansas State Science Fair, said receiving the Soybean Science Challenge Award was a welcome reward after investing months of time in planning and research.

 “When I heard my name called for the regional and state science fairs, I gave a sigh of relief because of the determination and hard work I put into my project,” Hensley said.

 Karen Ballard, Extension developer and coordinator for the Soybean Science Challenge Award, said the program is designed to involve Arkansas high school students in the “co-creation” of knowledge to support sustainable agriculture.

 “The student research awards are the culmination of months of independent student research, applying science to real-world issues and challenges facing Arkansas soybean farmers,” Ballard said. “An important goal of the Soybean Science Challenge is to engage high school student scientists in addressing complex production and environmental sustainability issues with a fresh set of eyes.”

 The program, which began in 2014, is open to all Arkansas students enrolled in grades 9-12. Students and teachers have access throughout the year to online courses designed to support student research, as well as an understanding of the science and challenges of soybean production. Students who successfully complete the online course are eligible to have their original, soybean-related research projects judged at regional science fairs affiliated with the International Science and Engineering Fair organization.

 Arkansas schools also have the opportunity to participate in a live virtual field day in the fall, linking Division of Agriculture researchers and area farmers with students and teachers in real time. This collaboration between the Division of Agriculture, Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board, Arkansas Department of Education, Arkansas Science Fair Directors and local school districts, teachers and students is designed to advance youth interest and achievement in the science, technology, engineering and math fields.

 Regional Winners


• Taylor Hensley, 17, Alpena High School, Alpena; Northwest Arkansas Regional Science & Engineering Fair; “Light What?? Phase III”

 • Cameron Thomas, 16, Central High School, Little Rock; Central Arkansas Regional Science & Engineering Fair; “Effects of Overcrowding on the Glycine max in a Hydroponic System”

 • Evan Buckner, 15, Pine Bluff High School, Pine Bluff; Southeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair; “Fighting Pythium aphidnerdermatum in Soybeans”

 • Spencer Madden, 18, and Emilee Watson, 15, Emerson High School, Emerson; Southwest Arkansas Regional Science Fair; “Aquaponics Farming VS Conventional Farming”

 • Alexandra Gibson, 15, Nettleton High School, Jonesboro; Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair; “Glycine Growth Guaranteed with Chlorine?”

 To learn more about the Soybean Science Challenge, contact professors Karen Ballard or Lynda Wilson at (501) 671-2086, or

 The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact your County Extension office (or other appropriate office) as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

 The Arkansas Cooperative Extension Service offers its programs to all eligible persons regardless of race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

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Media Contact: Mary Hightower
Dir. of Communication Services
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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