Penn State Turfgrass Science Students took first in both the 4-year and 2-year division in the 6th Annual STMA Student Challenge in Orlando. The awards are presented in partnership with the SAFE Foundation and Hunter Industries. Hunter’s continued sponsorship picks up the tab for all Student Challenge competitors’ Conference registration.

In the 2-year competition, Virginia Tech took 2nd place and Kirkwood (IA) Community College 3rd place, while in the 4-year category, two teams from Purdue University pushed the Nittany Lions, with second and third place finishes.

Through the generosity of SAFE, the Student Challenge provides the winning teams each with a $4,000 grant to fund a practical learning lab at their college or university. See the previous blog posting for information on how the students used last year’s winnings.
Matt Naedel team captain in prior years now coaches the students as they prepare for the exam. The teams start in September and meet two evenings per week to study such things as irrigation, calibration, turfgrass and pest ID and control. Varying turfgrass professors and industry representatives provide guest lectures. Naedel notes, “The students put in a lot of their own time. They are very dedicated and work very hard and I give them all the credit.” The students would also like to thank those that took time out of their schedule to help prepare them for the competition: Dr. Andrew McNitt, Dr. Peter Landschoot, Dr. Max Schlossberg, Dr. Al Jarret, Ms. Dianne Petrunak, Mr. Steve LeGros, Mr. Jeff Borger, Mr. Matt Naedel, Mr. Matt Neri, Dr. Al Turgeon, Dr. Dave Huff, and Mr. Danny Kline.

Andy McNitt faculty advisor for the teams says “Naedel sets the tone and does a massive amount of organization. He was on three competitive teams in the past and knows what it takes to be successful. He does a great job instilling that drive in the students.”

Penn State was able to take 16 students to the national STMA conference in Orlando due in large part to the generosity of TORO and the Keystone Athletic Field Managers Organization both of which donated funds toward the student’s travel expenses. Students were able to take advantage of many activities specifically geared to them including a student forum, student lunch, and many educational sessions.

In addition to their $4,000 grant, the two first place teams will also have their team name etched in the traveling Student Challenge Cup; receive replicas of the Cup and individual medals; and provide an article to be presented in an official STMA publication. Second and Third place winners received plaques and medals.

Bottom of Form

Penn State has faired well in the competition since it’s inception in 2005. This represents a three-peat in the 4-yr division. “The point difference between 1st and 5th place is very small. “We’ve been fortunate the past few years, the competition is tough, what’s great though is the overall camaraderie among the students from different schools!” said Naedel.

2010 First Place STMA Student Challenge Team 4-yr division.
Dan Sidle, Nick Gialloreta, Kyle Hivner, and Chuck Roman.


2010 First Place STMA Student Challenge Team 2-yr division.
Adrien Van Dyk, Nathan Szymkowiak, Niels Dokkuma and Sean Kearney.


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