Science experiments spark awards

Dana Verlinde

Dana Verlinde

Ryan Brunner started doing science experiments in first grade and he hasn’t stopped.

“It was something that he was always motivated to do,” said his mother Eileen Brunner. “He just enjoys doing them, he didn’t get extra credit in high school for doing them it was something that just interested him.”

Brunner’s dedication has paid off. Brunner, a junior computer science major, received awards for three directed laboratory science experiments in environmental science when he was a freshman, sophomore and junior in high school. He placed first each year at science fairs at state FFA conventions in Brookings. He went on to national conventions in Louisville, Ky., and placed second in his division each year.

His three experiments focused on how fertilizer moves through the soil; what fertilizer results in the best corn growth; and reversing the green house effect by removing carbon dioxide from the atmosphere through photosynthesis.

“I came up with my experiments just by using my knowledge from my previous experiments and building from them,” Brunner said.

As a high school senior he had two separate projects. He worked with three other classmates to put together a marketing plan for a milk vending machine. Through the course of their research they were offered a $20,000 grant from the South Dakota Department of Agriculture and purchased six machines, which were installed at the school.

Brunner is a Briggs Scholar and an honor society member; he was chosen to compete for the American Star award from a pool of about 2,800 American FFA Degree winners. To qualify, FFA members must have accumulated at least $9,000 in paid labor through their supervised agricultural experience.

Once a degree is earned, FFA achievers can apply for four different national star awards. For being a finalist, the National FFA Foundation awarded Brunner with $1,000. As part of the American Star award they made a video of him, which was sent out to every FFA chapter.

He has the opportunity to go to Costa Rica where for one week he would stay with a host family and the other half of the trip he would tour universities and examine the country’s crops like coffee and bananas.

“The timing didn’t work out last summer to go,” Brunner said. “I am still offered to go this summer if it works out.”