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SAN ANTONIO — Many high school girls have their mind on prom — what they will wear and who they will accept invitations from to attend as their dates. Instead, Copperas Cove High School student Abbie Wardlow has her thoughts on soil infiltration, porosity, and permeability rates. This different way of thinking just earned the senior a $10,000 scholarship.

Wardlow competed in the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo Agricultural Science Fair, winning first place in her category and money for college.

Through her project, Earth, Water, and Wildfire, Wardlow studied the various effects of a wildfire on soil infiltration, porosity, and permeability rates and the efficiency of two separate recovery treatments. Of the two treatments, she concluded that the Cool Terra Bio Char is most effective at treating soil after a wildfire leaving one inch of ash. Hand raking is most effective at recovering the soil with two inches of ash and neither is efficient at treating with three inches of ash.

Wardlow’s project was an extension on her previous project, “Soil Permeability: What a Disaster” where she tested the effects of an oil spill, wildfire, and land slide on mimicked soil conditions in an effort to assist agriculturalists in deciding the risk and recovery aspects of choosing a geographical location for soil-dependent activities like crops.

“I’ve competed in science fairs since third grade. At first, it was the CCISD campus and district competitions, and in high school, it grew to competing at major stock shows, Texas FFA state Convention and then the national level,” Wardlow said. “In the beginning, my projects focused on problems I had experienced such as bacteria in milk or removing Sharpie ink off folders. Then, they began to evolve into making homemade fire extinguishers, testing which fabric softener is most flame resistant, and building debris shields for a micro hydroelectric system. The Agriscience Fair contest has given me the chance to study problems bigger than myself.”

The Agricultural Science Fair is an opportunity for Texas 4-H and FFA members of all ages to demonstrate their knowledge of the scientific method to solve real-world agricultural problems. Projects are divided into four categories: Animal Systems, Power/Tech/Environmental Systems, Food Systems/Plant Systems, and Ag Sociology. After the contest, four students are awarded $10,000 scholarships by the San Antonio Rodeo Scholarship Committee for winning their individual categories.

Wardlow advances to the Texas FFA State Agriscience Fair in July.

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