Greg Pile opened an email May 19. It was from the White House.
Two of his students, Celine Patrick and Ashlee Tarro, had been invited to present their national award-winning FFA agri-science project at the 2014 White House Science Fair and meet President Barack Obama.
Pile, a 37-year agri-science teacher and FFA adviser at Sumner High School in Washington state, told Jessica Treich, who also teaches agri-science and advises FFA students.
Fast forward to May 27 and Patrick and Tarro were at the White House with Treich. They met the president and his science advisers as part of a special program promoting math and science among girls and young women and celebrated the accomplishments of student winners of a broad range of science, technology, engineering and math competitions throughout the U.S.
Pile said he was “surprised and just elated” by the invitation. “It’s been amazing from start to finish,” he said.
Patrick and Tarro are members of the Sumner FFA chapter. As students last year in Pile’s honors ag-biology class they had solved a plant infestation problem in their high school greenhouse.
Patrick is from Lake Tapps, Wash., and Tarro is from Auburn, Wash. Both are 15.
Their project won the state and national FFA agri-science competitions in their category and division.
“In our school’s greenhouse, we were having a serious infestation of aphids — or plant lice. We didn’t want to have to resort to the use of harsh pesticides to try and eliminate the infestation,” Patrick said in an FFA press release.
“We explored alternative methods for their control,” Tarro said. “All three of the methods that we tested proved safe, though some were more labor intensive than others.”
At the White House, Patrick and Tarro also met with other guests, including their peers, professional scientists, senior government leaders and private sector representatives.
“We are happy to have Celine and Ashlee as our honored guests,” said Danielle Carnival, senior policy adviser at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy. “The previous three science fairs have been favorite events of President Obama as he is always eager to learn more about what the most promising and impressive young scientists, engineers and inventors have been up to across the country.”
During his presentation, the president pointed out that men outnumber women studying and working in science and that women earn fewer than one in five bachelor’s degrees in engineering and computer science.
“Half our team we’re not even putting on the field,” he said in the East Room of the White House. “We’ve got to change those numbers.”
—The Associated Press contributed to this story.