In fall 2002, the Council for Agricultural Science and Technology (CAST) captured middle school students' interests in the agricultural sciences by sponsoring a national essay contest. This paper describes the essential processes of conducting a national essay contest for sixth, seventh and eighth grade students.
Contest collaboration was achieved by CAST through contents promotions to the USDA and congressional representatives. The Cooperative State Research, Education, and Extension Service provided major funding for the contest. Information technology requirements included Microsoft's Internet Information Server, Structured Query Language database server applications, Active Server Pages, and Hypertext Markup Language.
A total of 804 essays were received from 40 states, the District of Columbia, and the Virgin Islands. First and second place essays were submitted from homeschooled female students, from the sixth and seventh grades respectively. Only two of the top five essays were submitted by public school students.
Contest management was successful due to the planning and organization of appropriate hardware and software configurations. Future essay contest coordinators should consider their strengths and weaknesses in three areas: existence of appropriate hardware, software applications, and the technological support to coordinate these resources.
national essay contest, middle school youth