Skip to content

Natalie Blake – 2018 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge Award Winner Southeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair

MONTICELLO, Ark. — Natalie Blake, 15, a sophomore at Ridgway Christian High School in Pine Bluff won the Soybean Science Challenge at the 2018 Southeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair held at University of Arkansas-Monticello on March 8.

Blake received a $300 cash award provided by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board at the Awards Ceremony. Her science project titled “Effects of Hybridization on Salt Tolerance in Glycine max” placed first in Plant Science. Blake will compete at the Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair March 30. At the University of Arkansas-Pine Bluff Science and Engineering Fair, Blake’s project also placed first in Plant Sciences, plus first runner-up for the overall Best of Fair Award.

Diedre Young, Blake’s teacher, won the Soybean Science Challenge Teacher Mentor Award. “Natalie learned that hard work and determination will be recognized by those interested in the fruition of her endeavors. She learned research has rewards and that her work has practical applications,” Young said. “We forget that her and her cohorts are students; many haven’t made their mark in the world and the challenge gives these students the ability to do that – make a mark by doing research in soybeans.”
Blake acknowledged competition at the science fair was tough, but was overjoyed at winning. “I was happy to be there to compete and I learned a lot from the experience.”

Young had students participate in the Soybean Science Challenge because it introduced real world problems into the classroom in an open-ended inquiry-based method. She learned when students have a motivator, they work harder on their project. She noticed the experience of the Soybean Science Challenge spilled over into other aspects of the students’ academic lives; their grades and study habits improved and their educational outlook reached beyond high school. She highly recommended that teachers use the online course as a successful way to help students with their science fair projects and their academics as well.

When Blake took the Soybean Science Challenge online course, the topics that interested her the most were soy-based products and how the Arkansas economy depends on soybean production.

Prior to completing the online course and conducting the research, Blake admitted she knew very little about soybeans; she knew they were a food crop and are in animal feed as well.

Young became aware of the Soybean Science Challenge at the Southeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair in 2015 and has been encouraging and working with her students to compete ever since.

Walt and Shannon Blake, Natalie’s parents, are very proud of her; they believe she has excelled due to her own motivation and dedication. “She has had a lot of support from her schoolmates and teacher, as well as her family.”

Both Young and Blake’s parents agree that Natalie works hard in her studies and desires to excel in her schoolwork. This love of learning gives her a strong desire to teach others. Natalie’s love of the outdoors makes doing agricultural research easy and fun.

“The Soybean Science Challenge allows Arkansas senior high students to participate in scientific discovery that can make a difference to our state and the world,” said Karen Ballard, professor at the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s Cooperative Extension Service. She is the developer and director of the program. “Soybean farmers help feed the world, and Soybean Science Challenge students not only learn about this important commodity crop, but they also develop an understanding of the challenges and complexity of modern farming.”

“The goal of the Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge is to engage students in ‘real world’ education to support soybean production and agricultural sustainability,” said Gary Sitzer, chairman of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. “The program also rewards scientific inquiry and discovery that supports the Arkansas soybean industry.”

Information on the 2018-19 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge will be available in summer 2018. For more information, contact Dr. Karen Ballard at or Dr. Julie Robinson at

About the Division of Agriculture
The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture’s mission is to strengthen agriculture, communities, and families by connecting trusted research to the adoption of best practices. Through the Agricultural Experiment Station and the Cooperative Extension Service, the Division of Agriculture conducts research and extension work within the nation’s historic land grant education system.
The Division of Agriculture is one of 20 entities within the University of Arkansas System. It has offices in all 75 counties in Arkansas and faculty on five system campuses.

The University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture is an equal opportunity/equal access/affirmative action institution. If you require a reasonable accommodation to participate or need materials in another format, please contact as soon as possible. Dial 711 for Arkansas Relay.

Scroll To Top