Students from Five High Schools Join Bayer Experts for a Game of Asset Management
If you’ve ever raised teenagers, you know that it’s no small feat to capture their minds, their attention and their curiosity. Nx Gen Ag, an interactive game developed by scientists at Bayer, does just that.
Forty-seven students from RTP-area schools – including Cary high school, (Durham) City of Medicine Academy, Knightdale high school, Northern (Durham) high school, and Beddingfield (Wilson) high school – joined Bayer experts for the Nx Gen Ag event on April 6 at the Bayer headquarters in RTP, North Carolina.
At first glance, this “game” reveals key words and topics that employees in the crop science industry know all too well. Words like Phytophthora infestans, in vivo screening, and abiotic stress, coupled with business terms such as margin, royalties, and patent protection – just to name a few. However, it doesn’t mean these students couldn’t handle them! Guided by a Bayer scientist, regulatory or other expert, students formed an asset management team to develop a new product that would benefit the agriculture industry.
Teams then selected a type of product from choices including biological and conventional crop protection or genetically engineered seed treatment products with a range of traits. Each team then worked together to determine how much time and money to invest in efficacy testing, safety studies, field testing, residue trials, formulations, advertising and more.
As Dean Bushey, Global Regulatory Manager and contributing creator of this game, puts it; “you sit down as a team with an expert to help you, and you work through the steps of discovery, development, regulatory, marketing and launching.” But the game would not be complete if it didn’t have real world challenges. At regular intervals throughout the game, players must roll the die to determine how chance events – such as a drought, an unexpected allergen in a product, or the launch of a competing product – might affect their timeline, expenses, or profits.
| Creators of Nx Gen Ag include Bayer employees Dean Bushey, George Musson and Jim Rogers
Presenting to Management
Once the students worked their way through the each step of the game and overcame their real world roadblocks, then came the task of preparing a presentation about the product they selected. A “management team” of four Bayer employees listened as each team presented its results. While the students enjoyed making a large profit off their fictitious products in the game, the management team judged them according to the following criteria: creativity, participation of all students on the team, and presenting all of the information requested.
Students from Northern (Durham) high school present their results to the Bayer management team.
The chance to get a feel for real world product development and interact with Bayer expert is priceless for these students. As they finish out their time in high school, it’s important to experience the types of opportunities available across various industries and pick the brains of experts in these fields.
“We don’t provide any documents to the students ahead of time,” Dean says. “There’s a lot of terminology, so they have to ask us what does this mean, and that gets the conversation started.” In addition to the terminology, students interact with the Bayer experts on a personal level, asking them about their day to day tasks and roles within the company.
The business and science concepts learned from the Nx Gen Ag game could be heard in many of the statements that students made throughout the game, such as – “The more years of field testing, the more sure you are that your product will work; but the more years you do field testing, the more your product is delayed getting to market,” or “sometimes it is good to take risks; sometimes it is better to play it safe.”
The Nx Gen Ag Experience
With an expected 57,900 average annual job openings in the areas of food, agriculture, renewable natural resources, or the environment, but only an average of 35,400 new U.S. graduates to fill them, there is a huge opportunity for students in these areas.
Nx Gen Ag was developed in 2015 to give students the ability to learn more about those potential career options. This “game” is also a part of Bayer's Making Science Make Sense (MSMS) program, which strives to improve science education and foster scientific literacy. It has been completed three times now with North Carolina area high schools.
City of Medicine Academy (CMA)
“It opened my eyes to see what life is really like. You have to make hard decisions, and you have to work together. You have to make decisions that you never thought you would be making. My favorite part was once we started to see the results – how much we were gaining money and losing money. That was my favorite part because we noticed that we made the right choice which ended up earning money.”
Northern Durham High School
“It was fun. It was challenging to the mind. I like that. It’s something you really had to think about. I liked the fact that you had to work with your classmates in order to make the decisions. I learned a lot about how businesses work…and what restrictions and things you have to go through to get a product approved and to sell it.”
Cary High School
“It was cool to look at some things that involve real life agricultural problems and what you have to do…. to see the prices and (how) the decisions that you make can drastically change how your profit ends up. We had one thing in here where …. we chose to spend the money, spend the $400,000, but if we would have saved it, we would have lost like half of our profit.”
In regards to this most recent event, Dean says, “I think it was a good day, and students went home a little more knowledgeable and with a good feel for Bayer.”
 Employment Opportunities for College Graduates in Food, Agriculture, Renewable Natural Resources, and the Environment. (n.d.). Retrieved April 08, 2016, from https://www.purdue.edu/usda/employment/