10-year-old convinces Provo senator to make Utahraptor first state dinosaur

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Ten-year-old Kenyon Roberts fist-bumps his Utahraptor foot fossil. Roberts is responsible for SB43, which would make the Utahraptor the first state dinosaur. (Jeremy Roberts)

For every letter of the alphabet, 10-year-old Kenyon Roberts can name a dinosaur whose name begins with that letter — even X.

“Xenotarsosaurus,” Kenyon said. “Lived in the cretaceous period 65 million years ago. Carnivore. Has really stubby arms. And it was a very close relative to the Carnotaurus.” 

But Kenyon is not nearly as passionate about the Xenotarsosaurus as he is about the Utahraptor. He loves the Utahraptor so much he convinced Sen. Curt Bramble, R-Provo, to sponsor bill SB43, which would make the Utahraptor the first official state dinosaur.

“They’re unique to the state they have always lived in,” Kenyon said. “It’s cool, and it’s one of the biggest raptors to ever be found.”

Kenyon first proposed the Utahraptor to replace the Allosaurus as the Utah state fossil. Bramble, a family friend of the Roberts, said he didn’t even know Utah had a state fossil until Kenyon asked him about it at the dinner table.

“Here’s a young man, who, through his own initiative, said, ‘I think I wanna change the world. I’m gonna do my homework. I’m gonna study this, and I’m going to make the case,’ and he’s 10 years old, for heaven’s sake,” Bramble said.

After Kenyon explained why the Utahraptor should be the state fossil, he told Bramble he needed to open a bill file.

Jeremy Roberts, Kenyon’s father, said he was impressed by Kenyon’s proactive attitude.

“I look at my kid like, ‘how do you know what a bill file is?’” Roberts said.

As Kenyon said, the Utahraptor fossil has only been found in Utah. However, there was some controversy to making the Utahraptor the state fossil and replacing the Allosaurus, which also has significant ties to Utah.

Many Allosaurus specimens have been found in Utah’s quarries, and the Natural History Museum of Utah claims to have the best collection of Allosauruses in the world.

To compromise, the Allosaurus will remain the state fossil, and the bill would make the Utahraptor Utah’s first official dinosaur.  

“When I suggested that to Master Kenyon, he was thrilled,” Bramble said.

Some legislators have called bills like this one a waste of time, but Roberts and Bramble said they disagree.

“The legislature indulging a little 10-year-old boy like this … It’s a really good use of the 30 seconds they’ll debate this bill,” Roberts said.

Apart from the indulgence, both Roberts and Bramble see wider benefits of discussing the bill. Bramble said the experience will give Kenyon the opportunity to understand state government.

Kenyon’s love for dinosaurs has led him to read often, study world history, learn geology and even use mathematics to calculate by what percentage a T-Rex is taller than a Utahraptor, according to Roberts.

“Anything that gets kids talking about STEM education is worth having the conversation,”  Roberts said.

The bill will be discussed in committee on Friday, Feb. 2. Kenyon will be there to testify, and Bramble will invite the committee to test his knowledge of dinosaurs.

“It makes me proud of him,” Roberts said. “This is something he’s passionate about and wants to learn about, and he’ll be able to tell his kids one day that he created the state dinosaur, which is cool.”

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