Story by Mikhayla DeMott, (ACJ)
Undergraduate research is an excellent way to make the most of the college experience. Two agricultural education students have done just that and have taken advantage of this opportunity. Zachary Callaghan, soon-to-be sophomore, and Eric Koehlmoos, an incoming junior, are among several students who have taken part in undergraduate research.
Agriculture Teacher Perceptions of Student Agriscience Research and the Kansas FFA Agriscience Fair, was the title of Koehlmoos’s research project. The purpose was to investigate the perceptions of Kansas agriculture teachers about the agriscience fair and look to find ways to improve the attendance and participation in the fair. His results showed that the participation was low due to a variety of things: lack of experience with the event, poor participation in other science fairs and little collaboration between science and agriscience teachers. These findings are evidence that there are barriers to participating in this event.
Koehlmoos says, “The major barriers include: lack of experience with the event and lacking the financial resources or facilities to develop projects.”
Callaghan’s project focused on teacher perceptions, but in a different program. His research was titled, Kansas Agriculture Teacher Perceptions of the FFA Affiliate Fee Program. The goal was to explore Kansas agriculture teacher’s opinions on the National FFA Organization’s affiliate fee program. Kansas FFA is considering required participation in this program, which would directly affect the teachers and advisors.
Callaghan says, “The great thing about this program is it allows more students to be involved in FFA because it removes some of the financial barriers.”
Each of these research projects were presented as posters at the Gamma Sigma Delta Undergraduate Research Showcase and the College of Education Undergraduate Research and Creative Activity Fair.
Dr. Gaea Hock, assistant professor in agricultural education, has served as a mentor and advisor for these projects. She speaks very highly of the undergraduate research experience.
Hock says, “It is important to get undergraduates engaged in research early to help them think critically about issues and prepare them for graduate school or a career as an agricultural scientist.”
These K-Staters do not always find themselves searching for the latest and greatest agricultural education research, so they do have a bit of free time on their hands. Koehlmoos enjoys going back to his family farm or spending some time in a meat cooler with his fellow K-State meat judgers. Callaghan is also a farm kid and has a passion for showing cattle, fishing and gardening, but also loves the occasional Netflix binge.
Koehlmoos calls Granville, Iowa home and Callaghan is a Kansas native from Tonganoxie.