Frenship sophomores win national agriscience fair

Blake Connors and Bailey Brashears are still working on getting their drivers licenses.

But this fall, the two Frenship High School sophomores won national recognition at the FFA National Convention for an agriscience project on beef and E. coli. Industry specialists in Texas and Nebraska have also been interested in the data they collected.

The two students were entered in the junior division at the national convention after placing first in Texas. Their winning project was in the microbiology/food science/biochemistry category, although Connors said it would best be classified just as food science.

The two students soaked beef cubes in different strains of E. coli for about five minutes and allowed to dry, Brashears said. Then they used lactic acid on the beef, and found it was effective in getting rid of most of the deadly bacteria.

“It did not get all the E. coli, but it was a very significant decrease,” said Brashears.

When the duo researched ideas for their entry to the state agriscience fair, Connors said high interest in getting rid of bacteria on beef was one of the reasons they chose their project.

Brashears said they also got a lot of encouragement from Ashleigh Willems and Grayson Ortega, who graduated from FHS last year after finishing in first place in the same category at the FFA National Convention in 2009.

“We were trying to continue their legacy,” Connors said of Willems and Ortega.

Brashears said it helped that the same project is being researched locally at Texas Tech, where her mother, Mindy Brashears, works in the labs. Brashears and Connors, like Willems and Ortega, used the Texas Tech microbiology labs to conduct their experiments.

Connors said he has always been more interested in math than science, but he said his participation in the project has awakened an interest in how science is applicable in life. Scientific methods and procedures now make more sense, he said.

“It can help save a lot of people,” he said.

Neither student is ready to claim a lab coat for life just yet. Brashears is also in band and enjoys drawing, while Connors said a career in the agriculture industry is appealing at this point.

But both will continue with the research that earned them national recognition as sophomores.

“We’re continuing this project next year, and we know we’re going to have to do a lot to top it,” said Brashears, noting that they will be in the senior division next year. “There are a lot of people that continue doing the same project, but they continue adding new data.”

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