White County High School hosts Science/FFA Expo


White County High School recently hosted their first Science and FFA Expo with the goal of providing opportunities for students to engage in scientific research, study areas of personal interest, synthesize science and engineering concepts, and incorporate soft skills into the world of science.

Kim Eller and Wesley Martin, members of the WCHS faculty, said that while the Expo was not required, over 50 students chose to participate in what they hope becomes an annual event. Those who chose to participate were assigned a research project that would become a part of their semester grade and then were tasked with completing scientific research, log journals, poster boards, and being interviewed by a panel of judges.

“Our vision is to make this a community event that brings together businesses and organizations to recognize scientific achievements at WCHS,” Eller said.

The panel of judges for this year’s Expo came from BASF, a highly recognized organization in the fields of chemistry and scientific innovation that is based locally in Sparta and provides employment opportunities in White County, as well as from the Oakley STEM center at Tennessee Technological University.

Andy Schmitt, site manager at BASF, in Sparta, and one of the judges for this year’s Science/FFA Expo, said he was impressed with the number of presentations at this year’s event and that it was a testament to the amount of interest that White County students have in the fields of science and engineering.

“A lot of the students are deciding what they want to do in the future, and BASF hires a lot of students - some directly out of high school, some are going to go to technical schools, and others to four-year schools. This highlights things they are going to see in all those areas,” Schmitt said. “For us it’s a great way to see the future of different employees of BASF but also to see White County students can do.”

“We work really closely with the high school,” Schmitt continued, noting that BASF does provide donations for a variety of programs at WCHS, but their involvement goes far beyond that. “We also have students on site – at least one every semester – doing work-based learning. They spend one class period at the BASF plant and shadow an engineer or maybe someone in the supply chain group depending on what they’re interested in. This is a small community, but most of our people are White County residents, they went to White County High School. For us to be involved on this level, to get to see the students, to be involved with the faculty and help them develop their curriculum and help them understand what’s important for us as an employer – I think that’s super important.”

Eller said that, as with any project or test, students were apprehensive about the amount of time and effort that would be required to complete their projects over the course of the semester, especially given their other course work commitments.

“Scientific research is always an extensive task,” Eller explained, “but as time went on, most students began to enjoy the process and had a great experience performing their own experiments and collecting data. We want our students to not only be intelligent and understanding of scientific concepts, but also have the ability to think critically through the scientific method and apply the soft skills necessary to be successful in the real world.”

Lane Ward, who serves as the CTE director as well as a vice principal at White County High School, agreed with Eller’s assessment of the benefits that students gained from the experience of participating in the Science/FFA Expo.

“I love to see the project-based learning that occurs when students participate in the science fair because they are able to directly apply the principles they are learning,” Ward said, adding that he would encourage all of the students at White County High School to participate in future events of this nature. “Another benefit for students includes the opportunity for them to determine for themselves where their interest lies when choosing a subject for their science fair project. The involvement from industry and postsecondary partners like BASF and the Oakley STEM Center at TTU is another positive for the event.”

Eller said students who showed the greatest potential and research during this semester’s project preparations will be encouraged to participate in either the Upper Cumberland Regional Science and Engineering Fair at TTU in the Spring or at the State FFA Agriscience Fair, and that faculty members would help students interested in developing their projects further to fit guidelines at those contests.

Winners from this year’s WCHS Science/FFA Expo were as follows:

Physics, Mathematics, and Astronomy

1st Mason Simmons

2nd Kaylee Sanders

3rd Madlynn Savage

Behavior and Social Science

1st Ily Madge and Alondra Lopez

2nd Tori Mabe

3rd Eva Loveland and Kadrianne Clouse

Engineering, Robotics and Computer Science

1st Brodey Menard

2nd Mark Spedding and Kaden Seibers

Energy and Environmental Engineering

1st Tyler Meadows

Animal and Plant Sciences

1st Malery Riddle

2nd Isabella Carmichael

3rd Riley Hutson and Audrey Clouse

Chemical Science

1st Alexa Goodwin and Maycie Brock

2nd Olivia Flaminio

3rd Chalie Durfee

Earth and Environmental Science

1st Katie Eller and Lily Herren

2nd Calie Odell

3rd Ryan Spedding

Grand Prize Winners

Katie Eller and Lily Herren

Malery Riddle

Mason Simmons  


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