Darrin McFall wins Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Award at 2016 Northeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair
Darrin McFall ,17, an 11th grader at Buffalo Island Central High School, won the Soybean Science Challenge award in the regional round of the Northeast Arkansas Science Fair on March 17. For the past two years, McFall has also attended the International Science and Engineering Fair (ISEF) and will be representing Northeast Arkansas again this year in Phoenix, AZ.
The $300 cash award was provided by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and presented by Gary Sitzer, an Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board member.
McFall’s science project involved the application and testing of an Irrigation Advance System Sensor Unit for Water Management placed in cotton and soybean fields. “The most important conclusion of my project so far is that the progression of water used in irrigation could be monitored using the sensor unit tested. The unit can easily track the flow of water horizontally and vertically and will later be applied to use in fields.”
“I am very excited to represent Northeast Arkansas in the Soybean Science Challenge at the state level,” he said. “I look forward to sharing my research with others throughout the state.” Based on the results of McFall’s project, researchers could adapt the sensor units to provide variable irrigation management of row crops.
Since the area in which he lives has extensive amounts of farmland, McFall had a general knowledge of farming and knew quite a bit about cotton, soybeans and corn. The Soybean Science Challenge online course did enlighten McFall in several areas. “I found the many uses of soybeans interesting. The issue of having to produce more food possibly through megafarms was the most useful information for my research.”
The part of the Soybean Science Challenge online course which appealed most to McFall involved the material related to research he was already doing and research he thought interesting. The course material covers more than general information about soybeans McFall said. How soybeans are produced and how many bushels are produced yearly was new information to me.
Mandy McFall, Darrin’s mother and a science teacher at Buffalo Island, said it was exciting for him to win this award. “We live in a large farming community, and my background is in row crops. I love that he has the same passion for agriculture that I do and that he understands the importance of the future of our food supply. “
Darrin has been participating in science fairs since 4th grade and consistently been successful in these endeavors according to his mother. “Darrin has always been interested in microscopes, bugs and building things,” said Darrin’s mother. “While other kids his age were playing ball, he was carrying around a notebook writing down things he saw and how he could fix them.” Researching topics in which McFall was interested seemed second nature to him.
In addition to remaining at the top of his class, McFall participates in many different competitions and clubs such as the Quiz Bowl, Family Career and Community Leaders of America, Symphonic Band and the National Honor Society.
McFall served as a research assistant working with a weather server created to collect weather data on local farms in the Environmental Science Department at Arkansas State University. This experience expanded his research areas of interest. He has also made time to research developing an APP for use in the COTMAN (cotton management program) used by cotton researchers and consultants.
McFall plans to extend his current research through the next year to possibly incorporate it in field trials. “These trials will include tests on row crops such as cotton or soybeans to possibly increase yields using less water,” he said.
“My participation in the Soybean Science Challenge has allowed me to approach research in a new way as I have not worked with crops before,” McFall said when asked what he gained from his participation in The Challenge. “I have learned a lot about soybeans and hope to continue learning through applying my research towards soybean development.”
“The Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Award program is in its third year partnership between the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board and the University of Arkansas Division of AgricultureCooperative Extension Service,” said Dr. Karen Ballard, director and developer of the program.
Engaging and rewarding students in real-world educational research that supports the Arkansas soybean industry and agricultural sustainability is the goal of The Challenge which opened in 2014 to 912 grade Arkansas science students. Students who successfully completed the online course were eligible to have their original soybean-related projects judged at the 2016 ISEF-affiliated Arkansas science and engineering fairs.
For more information on the Soybean Science Challenge, contact Dr. Karen Ballard at (501) 6712086 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
Darrin McFall – Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Regional Winner – 2016 Northeast Arkansas Science and Engineering Fair
Category: Environmental Sciences
Project Title: Application and Testing of an Irrigation Advance System Sensor Unit for Water Management
Abstract: With increasing irrigation and farming costs, new methods of remotely controlling and managing water use have to be created and applied. In 2012, Arkansas State University began developing a collection of 36 sensor units to be placed in cotton and soybean fields. These units contain six to eight soil moisture sensors and a GPS unit to collectively record data at predetermined field sites. The units were never tested or used in field, so prior work had to be done to ensure the units would work efficiently. This project focuses on preparing and testing a single sensor unit in controlled conditions so the others can be prepared similarly and deployed for field data collection. Before the array of all 36 units could be used to detect water’s progression during irrigation, a single unit had to be edited to work consistently. Several trials involving sensor placement and orientation on different soil types were conducted. Field conditions were simulated in a greenhouse while all soil samples used were representative of common, yet extreme soil types. Samples were composed of a lower yielding sand, potting soil, and two loam varieties used commonly in row crops. Based on the results of these tests, researchers could then adapt the sensor units to provide variable irrigation management.
Left to right: Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board Member Gary Sitzer with Darrin McFall