winners of 4-h science challenge Photos courtesy of University of Minnesota
FIRST PLACE: Team Itasca garnered first place in the 2017 Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge. Pictured are (from left) Dorothy Freeman, associate dean and State of Minnesota 4-H director; team members Katelyn Slettom, Wyatt Lignell, Quiana Radaich and LeRoy Porter; coach Robbie Radaich; and Jane Johnson, Minnesota 4-H Foundation executive director.

ATV Fencing Buddy takes first place in 4-H Science of Ag Challenge

Team Itasca based its invention on a common summer chore, moving temporary pasture fence.

Installing and moving temporary electric fence in the summer on pasture is one of those repetitious jobs that you think could be done faster.

That’s what a four-person Itasca County 4-H team thought, too. For their inventiveness and tenacity in finding a solution to a problem, the four youth were awarded first place in the 2017 Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge competition.

The ag challenge, developed by Minnesota 4-H leadership, is the nation’s first program in which youth partner with local expert mentors to develop science-based responses to agriculture-related issues. The program was developed in response to the shortage of ag-literate scientists and professionals needed annually to fill thousands of ag jobs across the country.

Participating teams give formal presentations at regional events in April, and then attend a statewide event to have their projects evaluated and judged. The top three teams receive scholarships that range from $1,000 to $500 per team member. Youth also have the opportunity to connect with ag professionals throughout their project experience.

This was the first time participating in the challenge for team members Wyatt Lignell and Katelyn Slettom, both from Warba, and Quiana Radaich from Goodland and LeRoy Porter from Jacobson. The team came up with their idea last fall after brainstorming during meetings held by their coach Robbie Radaich, also from Goodland. They learned they all had one thing in common: having to move temporary electric fence on their family farms. They also agreed that the time-consuming chore was not a favorite. So they decided to focus on a project that would streamline installation.

“All livestock producers need fences, so our topic is relevant to most farmers in our region,” says Lignell.

Following ag challenge rules, they approached their project as a scientist would: asking lots of questions, tapping experts, tinkering and testing. They surveyed farmers at the University of Minnesota’s annual Cow-Calf meeting to get further feedback on their idea.

Numerous people offered guidance along the way, Robbie Radaich says. Warba inventor and patent holder Curt Hill helped the team develop strategies and ideas for inventing. Jeremiah Johnson, an ATV engineer with Polaris, taught them about ATV four-wheeler safety and development strategies. Midwest Manufacturing & Mechanical Inc.’s fabrication manager, Glen Newman, educated the team about using software to create blueprints. He also helped them understand what fabricators need to know to help an idea become a product. Area boilermaker and welder Lee Radaich helped the team weld together the final piece of their invention, the ATV Fencing Buddy. Silvertip Graphics produced logo stickers for the product pieces.

“I can’t believe how generous these mentors were with their time and knowledge and being willing to help our team in addition to their regular jobs,” says Quiana Radaich, the coach’s granddaughter.

As the 4-H'ers neared completion of their project, they met with area farmers again to get feedback. They tweaked their presentation a bit in preparation for the contest.

“The team was glad to learn so many of the farmers attending showed real interest in the potential of their product,” Robbie Radaich adds. “We’ve been asked to pursue the possibility of marketing it and we’re checking it out.”

The Buddy and the box
The ATV Fencing Buddy consists of two components: a fencepost caddy box that mounts on the ATV’s front rack and the Fencing Buddy, which attaches to a 2-inch trailer hitch receiver on the back of the ATV. The framework of the Buddy holds a 5-gallon pail (to carry fencing supplies) and two quarter-mile fencing reels. When it’s time to divide up pastures with temporary fencing, with the Buddy, the operator simply hooks the line to the perimeter fence and heads to the opposite fenceline, installing posts along the way.

In addition to mentors, Robbie Radaich says financial support is needed to help with registration and to build a project. She noted that supporters included the Arrowhead Regional Farm Bureau, Paul Masheimer at Animal Care Clinic of Hibbing, the Diamond S Ranch of Warba and the Itasca County 4-H Federation.

“I can’t believe this team,” Robbie Radaich adds. “Starting with no real idea where they wanted to go with the Challenge to creating an actual product that has received positive reaction from area farmers — what a positive and motivating experience for these 4-H'ers, regardless of how they place at the state event.”

SECOND PLACE: The Douglas County Ag Science Team took second place for its work on corn stover bedding for turkeys. Pictured are (from left) Dorothy Freeman, associate dean and State of Minnesota 4-H director; 4-H team members Kodi Bunderman, Katie Kent, Christina Kusmi and Kayla Egenes; coach Barb Egenes; and Jane Johnson, Minnesota 4-H Foundation executive director.

Other winners
Eight teams presented at the competition held at the University of Minnesota campus in Minneapolis in June. Taking second place in the Science of Ag Challenge were Douglas County 4-H'ers Katie Kent, Kerryn Lund, Christina Kuismi, Kodi Bunermann and Kayla Egenes for “Talking Turkey.” Their project focused on studying use of ground corn leaves and stalks as turkey bedding. Their research included testing in turkey pens as well as data-gathering from turkey growers.

THIRD PLACE: The Sherburne County ZomBee Hunters took third in the ag challenge. Pictured are (from left) Dorothy Freeman, associate dean and State of Minnesota 4-H director; 4-H team members Aspen Layer, Jackson Layer and Evelyn Fuchs; coach Jennifer Fuchs; and Jane Johnson, Minnesota 4-H Foundation executive director.

Taking third place was the Sherburne County 4-H ZomBee Hunter Team, for its project that tested bees for the presence of zombie fly larvae. Team members Aspen Layer, Jackson Layer and Evelyn Fuchs worked with San Francisco State University to help determine whether zombie flies contribute to colony collapses.

For more information about the Minnesota 4-H Science of Agriculture Challenge competition, visit the  University of Minnesota Extension Ag Challenge website.

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