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Katie and Will Welch pose with the check for winning the 2014 State Soybean Challenge. At right is Dr. Rick Cartwright, one of the judges. (U of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture photo by Julie Robinson)

A brother and sister team whose study of how plant color might be used as an inexpensive method of crop monitoring was named state winner of the first Soybean Science Challenge Award.

Will and Katie Welch, of Alpena High School in Alpena, won the Soybean Science Challenge award at a regional round at the Northwest Arkansas Science & Engineering Fair, before advancing to state competition in Conway on April 4.

Their project was titled, ““Stress Signals:  Evaluating Cellular Signaling in Cotton, Soybeans, and Corn by Colorimetric Means as an Inexpensive Method of Crop Monitoring.”

“The Soybean Science Challenge Award program is a new partnership between the Cooperative Extension Service and the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board,” said Karen Ballard, Extension developer and coordinator of the award.

“The goal of the Arkansas Soybean Science challenge is to engage high-school students in ‘real-world’ education to support Arkansas soybean production and agricultural sustainability,” said Shannon Davis, president of the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. “The program also rewards original student scientific inquiry and discovery that supports the Arkansas soybean industry.”

The program, open to all Arkansas science students in grades 9-12, begins with students taking an online course that opened in January 2014. Students who successfully completed the course were eligible to have their original soybean-related research projects judged at the 2014 ISEF affiliated Arkansas science and engineering fairs. In support of student scientific scholarship, the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board funded a $300 cash award at the regional level and a $500 cash award at the state level.

More than 30 students enrolled in the course and 20 competed at the regional science fairs and state science fair

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