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Agricultural Mechanics Contest Encourages Agricultural Education

Students WeldingAgricultural Mechanics Contest Encourages Agricultural Education

The state agricultural mechanics contest was held at UW on April 8, 2015. The hopes were high for the 37 teams (approximately 148 students) who participated, and the purpose of this competition is to build competence and confidence in these students and provide critical professional development for teachers throughout the state.

Developed and facilitated by the UW agricultural education program, this competition takes place in November and April at the University of Wyoming campus. Teams of high school students from across Wyoming travel to Laramie to showcase their skills and compete in the areas of electrical (both wiring and energy related), electronics, metalworking, woodworking, small engines, soil science, and other agricultural and science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) components.

This contest is held in conjunction with the Wyoming Future Farmers of America (FFA) state convention and consists of a 50-question test, which students have an hour to complete; a team activity, which the 4-member teams are expected to work together to solve; and different content areas that tests students’ skills and abilities. They are scored on their performance, and the top team advances to the national competition.

“The land grant mission of the university is important in community outreach,” says Dr. Chris Haynes, assistant professor of secondary agricultural education and agricultural mechanics. “We feel like it’s very, very important to have these kids here.”

This is the fourth year that Dr. Chris Haynes has been in charge of the contest. Since taking over the state agricultural mechanics contest, there has been a steady increase in participation. In his first year, there were 47 teams participating, which was an increase from the 12 teams that had participated the previous year. On average, 3/4 of the state of Wyoming participates in this contest.

Support for the agricultural mechanics contest and the agricultural education program has come from Rocky Mountain Power (RMP) and the Ellbogen Foundation.

RMP’s gift enabled the agricultural education program to add an energy component to the competition. The grant allowed for the purchase of equipment, the development of a curriculum and a skills test, and the administration of this competition component to 300 students from across Wyoming. Specifically, the energy component involved electricity from both traditional and renewable energy sources (solar).

The Ellbogen Foundation recently approved use of their excellence fund in the College of Education Dean’s office to enhance and grow the agricultural education program. These funds will help Dr. Haynes create professional development for teachers, add to the statewide outreach, and enhance the state competitions. It will also assist in purchasing new equipment.

Agricultural education programs are found in every land grant institution in the country. It has evolved to prepare future teachers to teach in the STEM curriculum and to encourage innovation in agriculture in a hands-on laboratory.

Since taking over the agricultural education program in 2011, Dr. Haynes has tripled the amount of majors. The program has a balanced enrollment of men and women, many whom were not raised on a farm but all of whom share a passion for education and agriculture. UW is now considered amongst the upper tier of agricultural education programs in the country, alongside names like Texas A&M, Oklahoma State, University of Missouri, and the University of Arizona.Ag Contest - Students using machines

The program is designed to build a well-rounded understanding of teacher education and agricultural science. Students study both historical and current trends in curriculum and pedagogy while learning about special education techniques, integrating technology, and multicultural classrooms.

The agricultural science curriculum is a combination of general agricultural science classes and classes from a chosen area of specialization. Throughout the program, authentic classroom experiences are embedded. Students also benefit from working in a state-of-the-art agriculture education lab to perfect their technical skills and teaching techniques.

Graduates leave the program equipped with the knowledge and confidence to teach the ideas of agricultural leadership, citizenship, communication, cooperation, hard work, and management of resources to our future leaders as an agriculture educator or FFA advisor.

“We’re looking towards the future,” says Dr. Haynes. “And our intent is to expand this program to where we will be able to offer considerably more than we are able to now.”

Students in this degree are well prepared to take their role in a traditional secondary agricultural education program in both the classroom and through leadership development and community service. Dr. Haynes and the College of Education have a vision for the future that brings together state-of-the-art equipment with a forward-looking space for learning. The expansion of the program will not only impact UW students, but also those who participate in the agricultural mechanics competition, as well as the state of Wyoming.

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