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‘Sprinkler Effectiveness’ scores gold for BHS whiz kids

By Michael Derry Special to the Courier

Bandera High School sophomores Ethan Miles and Ashlyn Persyn received gold medals and scholarships at the recent FFA State Science Fair, held in Dallas.

(Editor’s note: Michael Derry is the Bandera High School FAA advisor.)

On July 12, Bandera FFA members Ethan Miles and Ashlyn Persyn traveled to Dallas to compete in the Texas FFA State Science Fair with their research project entitled “Sprinkler Effectiveness: A study in uniform distribution by various types of sprinklers.”
Following in the footsteps of past Bandera High School competitors, the rising sophomores brought home gold medals and scholarships.
Miles and Persyn began thinking about competing in the contest and conducting a research project at the beginning of the 2015-2016 school year. One criteria for their research was that they wanted a project that had real world applications and could possibly impact their community.
With that goal in mind, they contacted wildlife biologists and botanists at the Kerr Wildlife Management Area. The wildlife biologist quickly stated that he wanted to find out at what depth Ashe Juniper – aka cedar – mulch would be a detriment to the regrowth of native vegetation.
The Texas Hill Country, as well as a large part of Texas, is overrun by Ashe Juniper. To combat the problem, landowners currently use several methods to remove the invasive species. One of those methods – commonly referred to as “cedar eaters” – is grinding the trees into mulch. However, a problem arises when the cedar is thick enough that it creates a mulch depth that prevents the regrowth of native vegetation.
During preliminary research, Miles and Persyn attempted to create a project to test mulch depths. They discovered that they would need to create a “typical” environment for the test plots. This meant that they would need to supplement natural rainfall with a source of artificial rainfall. Thus, came the need for a sprinkler system that would best simulate natural rainfall.
Since the test plots to be used were going to be 40-feet by 40-feet, the goal of the first phase of the research was to find a sprinkler that most evenly covered the area with artificial rainfall.
By winning the Power, Structural, and Technical Systems division at the state level Miles and Persyn have qualified for the national contest in Indianapolis, Indiana the third week of October. They each also received a $1,000 scholarship.
This is the third year in a row that the Bandera FFA chapter has qualified a team for the national contest. In 2014, Sam Gostomski was a national champion in the Social Systems division and in 2015 John Derry and Royce Barnes placed third at the national contest in the Environmental Systems division.
Miles is the son of Kim and Larry Miles of Bandera and Persyn is the daughter of Greg and Brenda Persyn.