Sheep Producer Participates in White House Science Fair

Sheep Producer Participates in White House Science Fair

(April 1, 2012) In its over 200-year history, the White House has hosted countless foreign dignitaries, Medal of Honor recipients, Super Bowl winners, and now it has also hosted Dyersburg, Tenn., High School’s (DHS) Maryanna McClure. She was invited to participate in the second annual White House science fair in February. McClure was also one of 10 students invited to present her project to President Barack Obama. 

“It is still sinking in that I went to the White House, shook hands with the president and presented my science fair project to him,” said McClure. 

McClure’s project titled, “Natural Color or White, the Genes Will Decide,” is based on her breeding and developing colors and fleece types in her Cotswold sheep. McClure explained that with only 2,500 Cotswold sheep registered in the United States and the natural color (meaning anything but white) being extremely rare, people are willing to pay just about anything for natural-color wool because it is so rare. Not only is the natural color rare, but it creates a beautiful blend of colors rather than one solid color according to McClure, increasing its value with fabric makers. 

The project began as part of her accelerated biology class with Deborah Gatlin during her junior year. McClure was required to participate in DHS’ science fair last year, and since she had purchased Cotswold sheep three years earlier to begin reintroducing natural color, she thought it would make a good project. 

“My sheep were already bred, so all I had to do was the genetic research portion of the project so I decided to do it on my sheep,” said McClure. 

McClure presented the project at the National Agriscience Fair after winning at the state level. She was shocked to win. The presentation at the National Agriscience Fair included an interview with a panel of judges that McClure says were very tough because they had strong science backgrounds and asked difficult questions. McClure scored a 195 out of a possible 200 for her presentation. 

But upon her return from winning at the national level, Cummins received an application to submit McClure’s project for consideration to enter the annual White House science fair. McClure says she didn’t think anything of it until Cummins received the email that McClure’s project was selected to participate. 

McClure’s sheep joined a variety of projects in the White House’s State Dining Room from robots that could Skype to a very sensitive system that could detect nuclear threats and small quantities of nuclear material. President Obama listened to McClure’s presentation last and she said he was amused by the fact that she had a variety of farm animals including goats. President Obama also touched some sample wool from her project and according to McClure was very curious about all the projects. 

McClure, who plans to attend Tennessee Technological University beginning in the fall and will major in agricultural education and animal science, says it is her desire to become an agricultural teacher. 

Reprinted from the Dyersburg State Gazette

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