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Kansas Polymer Research Center to co-host unique workshop

The Kansas Polymer Research Center (KPRC) will soon be partnering with producers, extension agents, students, and universities around the country for a workshop with the goal of providing solutions to the problems producers face on a day-to-day basis.

The workshop is currently planned for Feb. 23-25. Potential activities during the workshop include an evening reception at the KPRC, a full-day workshop at the Southeast Research & Extension Center in Parsons, and a half-day planning and proposal writing for scientists at the Foundry at Block22 in Pittsburg.

“This will be the second (workshop),” said Tim Dawsey, executive director of the Tyler Research Center. “We had the first one in February of 2020. COVID interfered with 2021, but we’re back this time. As in the first (workshop), Virginia Tech is a partner with us, but for this one we also have Arizona State and KU’s (The University of Kansas) representatives from their Center for Environmentally Beneficial Catalysis (CEBC) who will be joining us. And, like in the first one, Kansas State (K-State) will be helping with their extension agents, who will be sort of acting as the interpreters between the scientists and the farmers. A lot of us scientists weren’t farmers. We don’t speak the language, and quite a few of the farmers aren’t necessarily into the chemistry and so-forth, so the K-State extension agents will help with that communication.”

The title of the workshop is FARMS, or “Farmers Accelerating Research in Materials Science,” since it is the input of the farmers that will help drive the scientists towards new innovations in their fields.

“There will be some usual suspect topics, like recycling and those types of things, but the area of agriculture is wide open,” Dawsey said. “We’re not looking at things like maybe the K-States of the world would do, like crop rotation and genetic modification of animals. We’re looking at things where science can come in and help. We’ve talked about things like migration when the farmers put down fertilizer, pesticides, herbicides. It washes off, the wind blows it off, ways to retain it. Those are the kinds of topics we talk about. Literally we want the farmers to talk about every problem they have, from when they wake up in the morning until they shut the tractor down in the evening.”

The workshop provides a potential opportunity for students, particularly those interested in material science and agriculture, to witness the ideation step of the problem-solving process while learning about the problems facing America’s producers.

“We are trying to get some students, particularly ones that are interested in material science,” Dawsey said. “We’re looking at those to get involved. I just reached out to the extension agents about possibly having a few students from high schools, from Future Farmers of America (FFA), participate in the workshop. Through our plastics and our polymer chemistry programs, we’re pushing this out to get some (PSU) students involved, and there will be a number of graduate students that work out here at the KPRC and undergraduate students attending.”

More information on the FARMS workshop, as well as a form for registration, can be found at http://www.pittstate.edu/farms.

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