The competition is only a small part of the real accomplishments which happen through Illinois 4-H robotics. A group of Will County 4-H participants discovered that when 24 teams showcased their skills in the regional 4-H Robotics Box Bot Showcase in Joliet, hosted by University of Illinois Extension at the Weitendorf Agriculture Education Center.
All the youth in the clubs are 4-H members, thanks, in part, to the Illinois 4-H Foundation. This National 4-H Council grant-funded program impacted more than 100 Will County kids this year.
"The youth worked so hard all year to build and program these robots, and to see their hard work in action is terrific," said Megan Walsh, U of I Extension 4-H youth development educator. "They all did something today they could not have accomplished when they started, and that is success!"
Congressman Bill Foster attended the event and spoke about the importance of STEM education and how it impacted his decision to pursue his future career as a high-energy physicist and particle accelerator designer with Fermi Lab. The Congressman also spent time talking to the teams and giving feedback on their designs and programs.
That is a key tenant of 4-H; learning by doing.
"The youth in these clubs learned about engineering and technology, because they were able to build and program these robots themselves," says Walsh. "A number of the kids said one of their favorite things about their club was that they got to be hands on with the robot."
According to the Tufts University study, 4-H members are twice as likely to pursue a career in science, engineering, or computer technology. These positive youth development programs provide opportunities for youth to feel a sense of belonging, develop independence, practice generosity, and experience mastery.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR:
Judy Mae Bingman, University of Illinois Extension Marketing and Communications Manager
Judy uses powerful words and photography to tell the Extension story. She is a skilled communication strategist and storyteller with demonstrated success in building teams and creating strong organizational brand identities that deepen Extension’s impact among key audiences, build brand loyalty, strengthen employee talent, and expand public engagement. She is a frequent conference presenter at the National Association of Extension 4-H Agents Conference and helps Extension staff across the nation tell compelling stories.