Fighting for a Greener Future

Today, we all went out to the largest Volvo truck factory in the United States. They utilized many alternative ways of harnessing energy. We learned a lot about sustainable energy and particularly about how we need to change our culture and lifestyles to adapt to renewable energy sources. Afterwards, we visited New River Community College to view their sustainable energy technology. There we saw simulators that students use to practice operating photo-voltaic cells and wind turbines, along with actual solar panels and turbines we got to see. After lunch, we went to blogging class and learned about how to make a popular and successful blog. The class ended early, and we went straight to work on the global seminar projects. Later, we got to see a fashion show by the GSLs who showed us how to dress professionally. The day was pretty good and we are all looking forward to the two-mile hike to the Cascades tomorrow. Hopefully it doesn’t rain! 


A group of students learning about converting solar energy for solar-powered cars

Day 4th of July

Happy Independence Day!!!

Today was a fun and jam-packed day here at GSA. In the morning students attended several lectures in economics and meat science. In addition, Dr. Mike Ellerbrock gave a presentation about his study abroad experiences with the “Semester at Sea” program. Thus, students were able to understand the importance of developing themselves as worldly scholars, not limited by continental divides. Then, students continued to work in their global seminar groups to create an outline for their research papers. In addition, students submitted designs for the GSA T-shirt competition.

Finally, the 4th of July activities began! First, students engaged in basketball and volleyball tournaments in the residential quad. Then, the Governor School Leaders (GSLs) took students to Main Street to get dinner, dessert, and watch fireworks on Henderson Lawn.  



Students enjoying Rita’s Italian Ice

Getting Ready for Global Seminar

This past week at GSA, the students were divided into their groups for the Global Seminar project they will be working on for the month. The five topic areas for the project are global food security, food safety, childhood obesity, climate change, and bio-energy. Each project group includes one student from each of the five majors and focuses on a specific subtopic within the topic area. For example, one group of students researching the topic of childhood obesity will be writing about the feasibility of implementing the National Farm to School Network in U.S. schools.

Since their arrival, students have heard lectures from the perspectives of an agricultural economist, an expert in the field of sustainable energy, and a professional in the world of meat science. Even this early on in the program, these talented students are beginning to understand how integrated all of these apparently separate disciplines are, as well as how the knowledge they acquire in these classes can be applied to their research topics. As the project groups begin to work more closely together to achieve their goals and experience life as future scientists and leaders, the students will learn the importance of teamwork, discipline, and communication.

Over the course of the month here at VT, each project group will work together to create several final products to be presented at the Research Symposium that will occur at the end of the program. Students will write a 10 to 12 page research paper, create a brochure, design a large poster display, and make a Powerpoint to supplement their oral presentations. The research project will certainly test students’ skills as scientific writers, leaders, and orators as they collaborate with others to complete each of these tasks, but I’m certain that they are all up to the challenge!


Students visited the Newman Library computer lab and learned how to conduct research using scholarly journals and other library resources.

Meat us at the lab!

Similar to yesterday students began their day with lectures from Dr. Mike Ellerbrock and Mr. Dan Swafford.  Today, Dr. Ellerbrock continued his discussion on the idea of diminishing marginal utility and the concepts of marginal costs and benefits.  At the beginning of his lecture, Mr. Swafford built on his previous lecture on wind turbines and energy harvesting. Next, Dr. Swafford discussed several topics surrounding solar energy. Students were even taught how to construct their own water heaters, harnessing solar energy.

Then, in the afternoon, students toured the campus library in order to begin their research projects. Also, students were given the unique opportunity to visit Virginia Tech’s “Meat Lab” where they learned about food safety and made Bratwursts!

Image(Food Safety Project Group)

This evening students have been busy socializing, organizing sporting events, and making their first trips to Main Street with our Governor’s School Leaders.

— Jimmy Shatt, Governor’s School Leader

And So It Begins!

Hello readers! Welcome to the blog for the 2013 Summer Governor’s School for Agriculture at Virginia Tech! This is the place to go for news, pictures, and updates on the students’ experience and the program’s progress over the summer.


As will be the norm for the rest of the summer, the students had a busy morning and a great start to the program with lectures by Professors Mike Ellerbrock and Dan Swafford. Dr. Ellerbrock started the program’s first class with a discussion about the concept of diminishing marginal utility, an economics term that many of the students – but not all – were unfamiliar with. The rest of the course was spent learning about price versus cost, supply and demand, and several other foundational economics concepts.

For the next hour, students learned about wind turbines and wind farms as the first part in a series about sustainable energy presented by Professor Swafford. Other topics to be discussed include solar energy and alternative fuels. On Friday, the class will culminate in a field trip to Volvo that will give students a hands-on opportunity to learn about the state of sustainable energy and the role they can play in the future of this discipline. Professor Swafford will also be directing students in the Robotics elective later in the month and helping them construct and control robotic devices as part of a friendly competition.

During the rest of the day, students spent their time socializing with roommates and new friends, exchanging phone numbers, and making plans to hang out. It’s looking like an exciting month lies ahead for the Governor’s School students and leaders, so check back soon for more updates!

— Lauren Jones, Governor’s School Leader