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Ag students receive an I-CASH grant

By Jane Ver Steeg

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

Pictured with their model grain dust simulator are (from left) Ben Werkhoven, Jon Van Keulen, and David Prins.

Pictured with their model grain dust simulator are (from left) Ben Werkhoven, Jon Van Keulen, and David Prins.

Ben Werkhoven from Monroe, Washington; David Prins from Lacombe, Alberta; and Jon Van Keulen from Surrey, British Columbia; were partners in a group project for Dr. Duane Bajema, in which students pick a topic of interest to them, identify a problem or question, review background information, prepare a study proposal, and complete the project.

The trio selected dust explosions, an issue that has been in the news in Northwest Iowa following a grain elevator explosion. The students constructed 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 dust explosions and has given a presentation on the topic to five high school agriculture classes.

Part of the assignment was to write a grant proposal for possible funding for the project. Bajema notes that students learn appropriate skills and gain valuable experience through assignments such as this. Receiving a grant validates the importance of their work, plus it gives them the resources to move forward with their creative ideas.

In funding the dust explosion project, 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.”

They continued, “This is a refreshingly interesting project and quite different from what 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.