Today's elementary school youth face a dwindling range of options for studying science, engineering and technology and applying their learning to real-world problems. Likewise, many people today face mobility and life care issues that affect their daily lives. Is it possible that engaging young minds can use technology to find solutions that help people facing mobility issues? This was our goal for our Two Rock 4-H SET Civic Engagment Project in 2012.
How has 4-H helped?
The first phase of our project involved Lego Mindstorms NXT. These robotic kits are great tools for kids to learn problem solving, construction engineering, electronics and programming skills. In subsequent meetings, kids working in teams learned to program their NXT robots to perform simple tasks such as move in specific directions, avoid walls or react to sound or light. Two Rock 4-H SET also was asked to participate in submitting a proposal for the 4-H National Youth Science Day Experiment (NYSD), which in 2012 coincidentally was about robotics. Our group submitted a proposal that involved hydraulics, which could be controlled remotely through the use of plastic syringes, tubing and other inexpensive materials. Our project kids built many different mobility assistance devices such as scissor lifts, mechanical pickers, hydraulic wheels and other equipment - each represented in miniature using off-the-shelf parts.
Several of our kids now plan to be engineers of some sort.
Two Rock Club Member
Our 2012 project had many payoffs. First, fourteen kids learned that science, engineering and technology is fun and could be the path to a rewarding career. Several of our kids now plan to be engineers of some sort. Second, Two Rock 4-H members participated in several community events that showcased our project to new audiences and helped build the impact that 4-H is not just an "animal husbandry" program. Some of the events that our Sonoma County Science project participated in were the Petaluma Butter and Eggs Parade, the Sonoma County 4-H Chicken-que in Santa Rosa, The Sonoma County Fair in Sana Rosa, a project build demonstration at the Sonoma County 4-H Center, a robotics demonstration at NASA Ames Research Center in Menlo Park and the Bay Area Science Festival at AT&T Park.