Sumner High School’s Future Farmers of America chapter returned from the 2016 National FFA Convention & Expo in Indianapolis last week where 19 students placed at the National Agriscience Fair.
The 89th convention ran from Oct. 19 to 22 and celebrated agricultural education in schools across the nation, recognizing projects students have been working on.
The projects are separated into the areas of Animal Systems, Plant Systems, Environmental and Natural Resources Systems, Power, Technical, and Mechanical Systems, Food Products and Processing Systems and Social Systems.
“We had a wide range (of projects),” said Jessica Olaiya, the adviser for the Sumner High FFA chapter.
No matter the category, all of the students walked away with a placing, whether they completed their projects individually or with a partner. Each division had around 20 to 30 projects competing.
Hannah Giddings, a junior at Sumner whose individual project was on the fuel efficiency and environmental effect of diesel vehicles, placed ninth in the nation in the Power, Technical and Mechanical Systems category.
“It was a really exhilarating experience,” Giddings said. “You don’t truly knowing the impact of 60,000 people until you see them all in the same room.”
Having a team make the top three was incredible. To be at Sumner now when we have students qualifying each year — it’s mind-blowing to see this is what we do at Sumner (High School).
Maria Montoya, agriculture teacher at Sumner High School
“It was really fun,” added junior Madison Chamberlain, who took 13th place in the nation in the Food Products and Processing category for her project on gluten-free foods. “I really enjoyed the convention and meeting all the students from different states.”
Students used project boards to present their findings to judges in a 20-minute presentation.
“I prepped them and interviewed all of them and helped them get their boards ready,” said Maria Montoya, a new agriculture teacher at Sumner HS who helps with the FFA program. “I was really helping them at the tail end of things.”
Students begin working on their projects about a year in advance. In order to qualify to compete for the National Agriscience Fair, they have to win at the Washington state Agriscience Fair.
Watching two teammates — Hailey Chamberlain and Makenzie Campbell — win second in the country for their project on tire rubber toxicity in the Environmental and Natural Resources division was a big moment for the group. Students don’t find out whether they’ve taken first, second or third in a category until they’re live on stage.
“Having a team make the top three was incredible,” Montoya said. “To be at Sumner now when we have students qualifying each year — it’s mind-blowing to see this is what we do at Sumner (High School).”
As the SHS FFA president, junior Isabella Vacca says that the projects students choose to work on benefit them in the long run.
“A lot of students do projects related with things we want to do in the future,” she said.
Vacca, who wants to become a vet, placed sixth in the nation with her project “The Effect of Cyrofreezing on the Semen Quality of Rainbow Trout” — an endeavor she says hasn’t really been applied to fish in the agriculture industry.
“I was really proud of all of them,” Olaiya said about her students. “To see them take (their projects) full circle and take (them) to the highest level was really cool to see.”