UACES Facebook Pine Bluff teen takes Soybean Science Challenge state championship
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Pine Bluff teen takes Soybean Science Challenge state championship

Fast Facts:

  • Natalie Blake, 15, wins state-level competition
  • Deidre Young, a teacher at Blake’s high school, receives Soybean Science Challenge Teacher Mentor Award

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CONWAY, Ark. – The Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board recently named a 15-year-old high school sophomore the winner of the 2018 State Soybean Science Challenge.

Natalie Blake with check
MEETS THE CHALLENGE -- Natalie Blake, 15, of Pine Bluff, is the winner of the 2018 Soybean Science Challenge.

Natalie Blake, a student at Ridgway Christian High School in Pine Bluff, prevailed at the state-level competition at the Southwestern Energy Arkansas State Science and Engineering Fair on March 31 after previously winning the 2018 Southeast Arkansas Regional Science Fair at the University of Arkansas-Monticello on March 8.

Blake received $1,300 in combined cash awards, provided by the Arkansas Soybean Promotion Board. Blake’s project for the competitions, “Effects of hybridization on salt tolerance in Glycine max,” also received an Honorable Mention in the Plant Sciences competition.

Blake said she was surprised to be named the challenge’s state winner, given the intensity of the competition.

“I couldn’t believe they called my name,” Blake said. “My mentor had to tell me to go up to the front! There were so many great projects. I am so glad I was chosen.”

Diedre Young, a teacher at Ridgeway Christian and Blake’s mentor, won the Soybean Science Challenge Teacher Mentor Award at the regional and state levels. She said she encouraged her students to participate in the Soybean Science Challenge because “it brings real world problems into the classroom in an open ended inquiry based way.”

Karen Ballard, Professor of Program and Staff Development for the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture, and director of the Soybean Science Challenge, said the challenge gives young people a chance to participate in a meaningful way in furthering production of the state’s No. 1 row crop.

“The Soybean Science Challenge allows Arkansas senior high school students to participate in scientific discovery that can make a difference to our state and the world,” Ballard said. “Soybean farmers help feed the world, and Soybean Science Challenge students not only learn about this important commodity crop, they also develop an understanding of the challenges and complexity of modern farming.”

The Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge was launched in January 2014 to high school science students. Students who successfully complete an online course are eligible to have their original soybean-related research projects judged at ISEF-affiliated Arkansas science and engineering fairs.

Information on the 2018-19 Arkansas Soybean Science Challenge will be available in summer 2018. For more information, contact Dr. Karen Ballard at kballard@uaex.eduor Dr. Julie Robinson at The Cooperative Extension Service is part of the University of Arkansas System Division of Agriculture.

To learn about soybean farming in Arkansas, contact your local Cooperative Extension Service agent or visit


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 offers all its Extension and Research programs to all eligible persons without regard to race, color, sex, gender identity, sexual orientation, national origin, religion, age, disability, marital or veteran status, genetic information, or any other legally protected status, and is an Affirmative Action/Equal Opportunity Employer.

By Ryan McGeeney

The Cooperative Extension Service
U of A System Division of Agriculture

Media Contact: Ryan McGeeney
U of A Division of Agriculture
Cooperative Extension Service
(501) 671-2120

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