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(From left) Travis Roberson, John Peppers, and Shannon Bradley
(From left) Travis Roberson, John Peppers, and Shannon Bradley

Graduate students on Virginia Tech Turfgrass Team participate in unique industry outreach program

Graduate students in the School of Plant and Environmental Sciences took part in the W.S. Connelly Innovative Research Contest, financially supported by Kevin and Patrick Connelly, chief financial officer and chief executive officer, respectively, of Landscape Supply Inc.

The oral presentation contest is a moderated, timed scientific presentation like students routinely give at academic society meetings. This contest is different as students are tasked with successfully communicating to an audience comprised of industry professionals instead of scientific peers.  

The contest was originally held as part of the conference education program for the Mid-Atlantic Turfgrass Expo. The pandemic moved the conference educational programming to a virtual format for several years. Not wanting to lose momentum with its success, it was incorporated into the Landscape Supply two-day virtual fertilizer and pesticide applicator recertification program. The program was presented in February to more than 1,000 participants from several states.

A panel of industry judges was pre-selected for each day’s program. The students had 20-minutes to present on their topics to kick off each day’s event. Point values were assigned on the basis of: presentation timing, presentation of material in a logical, ordered sequence, the quality of visual aids, student speaking method, and student ability to answer audience questions. 

Travis Roberson, advised by Assistant Professor David McCall, won the first-place prize of $500 for his presentation, “Impact of spring dead spot on field performance and athlete safety.”

John Peppers, advised by Professor Shawn Askew, won second-place and a $400 prize for his presentation on “Goosegrass and Poa management as influenced by plant growth regulators.”

Shannon Bradley, advised by Assistant Professor Alejandro Del Pozo, won third-place and a prize of $300 for her presentation on “Remote detection of annual bluegrass weevil.”

Caleb Henderson, advised by McCall, won the first-ever People’s Choice Award and a prize of $500. His presentation was “Targeted pesticide applications using GPS sprayers and pest mapping.”

The judges decided that all of the presentations were award worthy, so $200 prizes were given to the other participants: Navdeep Godara, Daewon Koo, and Aaron Tucker.

Reaction from event participants was, “This was the best recertification program I have ever participated in and the students are the primary reason.”