UACES Facebook Seven students, mentors named regional winners in Soybean Science Challenge
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Seven students, mentors named regional winners in Soybean Science Challenge

By the U of A System Division of Agriculture
March 21, 2017

Fast Facts:

  • SSC seeks to award the best in soybean-related research from high school students in the state
  • State winner will be announced April 1
  • “Teacher Mentors” recognized for first time 


LITTLE ROCK — Seven budding scientists, researchers and producers were recognized recently as winners of the 2017 Soybean Science Challenge regional science fair awards, highlighting projects that may lead the way toward the next great advancements in the state’s top row crop.

This year’s winning projects included examinations of possible unintended genetic modification in weeds, the effects of ionizing radiation on growth and biomass in soybeans and more. 

The science projects, all of which were soybean-related and conducted by Arkansas high school students, were judged at seven regional science fairs throughout the state in February and March. Cash awards of $300 were presented to students with the best projects supporting Arkansas soybean production and agriculture sustainability. For the first time, teachers associated with the research projects were awarded a $200 Teacher Mentor Award for guiding, supporting and encouraging agricultural research. 

Karen Ballard, professor of Program and Staff Development for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, said the scientific competition helps students participate in creative avenues of research that can have real-world impacts. 

“The Soybean Science Challenge allows Arkansas high school students to participate in scientific discovery that can make a difference to our state and the world,” said Ballard, who is also director of the Soybean Science Challenge program. “Soybean farmers help feed the world, and Soybean Science Challenge students not only learn about this important commodity crop, they also develop an understanding of the challenges and complexity of modern farming.” 

This year’s regional student and teacher winners include: 

Arkansas School for Mathematics, Sciences and the Arts, Hot Springs

Student Winner: Madeline Leicht
Project Title: “GMO Crop Dilemma: Are Genetic Modifications Spreading to Weeds?”
Teacher Mentor Award:  Dr. Patrycja Krakowiak

Central Arkansas Regional Science & Engineering Fair, University of Arkansas-Little Rock

Student Winner: Mohammed Abuelem, Pulaski Academy, Little Rock
Project Title: “The Effects of Ionizing Radiation on Glycine Max (soybean) Radicle Growth, Stem Growth, and Dry Weight Biomass”
Teacher Mentor Award: Dr. Annice Steadman

Ouachita Mountains Regional Science & Engineering Fair, Mid-America Museum, Hot Springs

Student Winner: Harli Simmons, Avilla Christian Academy, Alexander
Project Title: “Espressoy”
Teacher Mentor Award: Michelle Vire

Northwest Arkansas Regional Science and Engineering Fair, University of Arkansas-Fayetteville

Student Winner:  Ivan Midbust Heger, Alma High School, Alma
Project Title: “Crop Dusting Attachments for Drones”
Teacher Mentor Award:  Jeana Parker

Southeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair, University of Arkansas-Monticello

Student Winner:  Natalie Blake, Ridgway Christian High School, Pine Bluff
Project Title: “Why So Salty?”
Teacher Mentor Award:  Diedre Young

Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair, Arkansas State University-Jonesboro

Student Winner:  Darrin McFall, Buffalo Island Central High School, Leachville
Project Title:  “Analyzing the Effects of Anionic Polyacrylamide on Row Crop Health and Emergence
Teacher Mentor Award:  Kristen Thomas

Southwest Arkansas Regional Science Fair, Southern Arkansas University, Magnolia

Student Winner:  Shelby Rayborn, Emerson High School, Emerson
Project Title: “The Most Beneficial Component of Fertilizers”
Teacher Mentor Award:  Connie Orsak

The Soybean Science Challenge will present a $1,000 award to the student whose project is judged to best support soybean sustainability in Arkansas and agriculture in general at the Southwestern Energy Arkansas State Science & Engineering Fair on April 1.

Students who successfully completed an online course were eligible to have their original soybean-related research judged at regional science and engineering fairs associated with the 2017 International Science and Engineering Fair.

 The Soybean Science Challenge is an educational project funded by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board in support of student scientific scholarship, in partnership with the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

Information about the 2017-18 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge will be available in summer 2017. For more information, contact Dr. Karen Ballard at To see the student winner profiles and other Soybean Science Challenge materials for classroom use, visit For general information on soybeans, visit or contact your county extension office.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture offers all its Extension and Research programs and services without regard to 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 System Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2126

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