The versatile bean

Smaller than a pea, but used in hundreds of ways: You can’t do that with just any bean! Ohio is the 6th largest soybean producer in the United States. Many amazing uses have been found for soybeans, using science to produce new products. The Ohio Soybean Council supports the Invention Convention and gives out awards at every district science fair, including more than $2500 of awards at State Science Day. What kinds of projects will your students develop? Get some ideas here!


One acre of soybeans can be turned into 82,368 crayons. Crayons are usually made from paraffin wax, which can take decades or even up to a century to decompose in a garbage dump. Soy crayons are completely biodegradable, so they’re better for the environment. Their colors are brighter, they glide smoothly on paper, and thanks to soybean farmers, we’ll never run out of soybeans to make more soy crayons.

Ski wax

People use wax on skis or snowboards to create a smooth surface that slides easily. But ski wax is traditionally made from petroleum. The petroleum-based wax can be left behind on ski hills. When snow melts, the water containing petroleum runs into nearby rivers and lakes. College students at Purdue University developed a soybean-based ski wax that’s kinder to the ski slopes. Soybean oil is safe for the environment, and soybeans are cheaper than petroleum.


Did you know that ink for newspapers used to be made from petroleum? Petroleum is an expensive and non-renewable resource, so printers started looking for an alternative. Now soy ink is used for newspapers, picture books, and other printed materials. Ohio farmers grow millions of soybeans each year, and those soybeans can make a lot of ink! Soy ink takes less pigment, or coloring, to create very bright, sharp colors in printing. And soy ink spreads further, so it takes less ink to print things. That saves money for the printers and that means lower prices for you!


Eco-friendly paintballs are safe to use around animals and water sources like rivers and ponds. They’re filled with soybean oil and coloring that rain will wash away. And the shells are biodegradable and will be absorbed into the ground without hurting plants or animals. Over 30 million people in the United States play paintball at least once a year. That’s a lot of paintballs flying around! Environmentally-safe materials like soybeans are good for fun now and for the future. Soybean oil won’t harm playing fields where the paintballs are used. The prices are lower, too, because soybean oil is a renewable, easy to produce resource.