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Dordt Ag safety project awarded I-CASH grant

May 2, 2008

Ag Majors

Doing their homework was a rewarding experience for three Dordt ag majors, who were recently awarded an $835 grant by the Iowa Center for Agricultural Safety and Health (I-CASH) to fund their class project.

Ben Werkhoven (Monroe, WA), David Prins (Lacombe, AB), and Jon Van Keulen (Surrey, BC) were group partners in an Agriculture Directed Study class taught by Professor Duane Bajema, in which students pick a topic of interest to them, identify a relevant problem/question, review background information, prepare a study proposal, and upon approval complete the project.

This trio selected the topic of grain dust explosions, which has been in the news in Northwest Iowa following a recent grain elevator explosion. They spent more than 100 hours on the project, including the construction of a sealed chamber model, using powdered coffee creamer to illustrate how flash fires occur. Grain dust, like powdered creamer, is not especially flammable, but when grain is dumped into a grain silo, some of the finer dust particles can remain suspended in air surrounded by oxygen. This mixture can be ignited by a spark, resulting in an explosion.

The group also created a safety handbook on the topic, and to date have gone to five high school agriculture classes to give presentations on the topic.

Another aspect of the directed study agriculture class was the writing of grant proposals, and Professor Bajema encouraged the group to submit their project for possible grant funding.

“This is an example of what happens at Dordt College at the student level,” said Bajema. “Students work with faculty on the development of projects and grant proposals, and students are successful in obtaining grants. Their ideas and work are considered worthy of funding by outside funding agencies. The students learn appropriate skills and gain valuable experience in the process. Receiving a grant validates the importance of their work, plus it makes resources available to them allowing them to move forward with their creative ideas.”

In funding the I-CASH grant, the Iowa agency noted that the students presented an “excellent written application, which made good use of funds and ranked very well in categories of introduction, goals, methods, evaluation, and budget.”

“This is a refreshingly interesting project, and quite different than we usually get. As 17-19 year old farm kids could be working at local elevators, it would be important for that group to learn about this hazard.” They noted that the model can be used repeatedly for demonstrations that “are attention-getters” and that would also be applicable beyond commercial agriculture, as farmers sometimes operate private elevators.

I-CASH was established by the Iowa Legislature, with a mission to enhance the health and safety of Iowa’s agricultural community by establishing and coordinating prevention and education programs.

Ben Werkhoven was the primary author of the grant, and is graduating this year with an emphasis in agri-business. He plans to return to his home state of Washingon, where he will attend veterinary school next year. David Prins is also graduating this year, with an emphasis in plant science. He will be taking a few additional courses at Dordt next fall. Jon Van Keulen is a junior ag major at Dordt, whose emphasis is agri-business.

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