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Ag. Technology Contest draws high school students to UWRF

March 23, 2007

The 2007 Agricultural Technology Contest brings around 1,000 high school students to the University to participate in various events. The contest rules and regulations are set by the Future Farmers of America (FFA). The event is going to be held Saturday, March 31.

The Contest is a “great recruiting tool for the University,” Contest Coordinator Steve Boe said. He said the University brings in an average of 65 Minnesota and Wisconsin high schools, with 800 to over 1,000 participating students. He said this contest is a great way for students to see the campus and find a specific niche for a potential career choice.

The contest consists of 17 individual competitions ranging from horticulture to dairy science and food science. Boe said there is a contest for every department in the College of Agricultural Foods and Sciences. These contests typically start with an individual written exam, an identification portion and a lab exercise.

“I learned a lot about food science and leadership skills,” freshman Michelle Jensen said. “[The University] has a great Agricultural program.”

Jensen participated in the contest all four years of her high school career. She said the contest was a lot of fun and a great learning experience. She also said the contest gives students “fun, real life, applicable experiences.”

Assistant contest coordinator and past participator Jessica Pries said the contest is a “great opportunity for job opportunities.” Pries said the competition is a good way for students to meet professors and begin networking within the agricultural field. She said that because there are so many categories of contests to choose from, students are able to get a wide range of experience, which will help deciding majors or career paths.

Professors who volunteered within their expertise judge the events. There are also 125 to 150 University students that volunteer to make the contest run smoothly. Boe said there is no way this contest would function without the help of these volunteers. Faculty advisor for the contest Tim Buttles said that it “gives those that volunteer leadership skills, learn the ‘behind the scenes’ of contests and help prepare their own students” for future contests.

One of the big events of the contest is the Power Tool Drag Race. Students obtain a power tool of some kind and attach materials to it to make it into a car. This event has very strict vehicle specifications.

According to the Agricultural Education Web site, a few of the restrictions include “110 volt power tools, power tool must be grounded or double insulated and 35 pound max weight.” The department of Agricultural Engineering Technology has a raceway where they race the cars. This event will be held in the Falcon’s Nest in the University Center.

Each event has its own set of specific rules and regulations. Students can find this information on the Agricultural Education Web site. The contest costs $4 per student with up to four students maximum per school.

The University of Wisconsin-River Falls is one of three regional hosts for the contest, with the state competition held at UW-Madison. Buttles said that travel cost is an issue for high school students, which is why there is more than one location for regionals. The other hosts include UW-Platteville, Fox Valley and Janesville High School.