Through a pilot initiative engaging 50 youth in Rockford, Madison and Elgin, 4-H youth in Illinois are building science and engineering skills for the future. Using open-source software and simple microcontroller boards called Arduinos, these youth are writing computer programs, learning how to solder, building simple circuits, and designing sensor-based systems to address everyday problems.
For example, 4-H youth in Decatur are using Arduino to build and program an autonomous watering system with sensors that measure rainfall to help care for their community garden. In May, three Arduino and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) events were hosted by these 4-H youth to engage parents and community members.
Several hands-on activities were completed, from NXT Lego robotics, Ecobots and squishy circuits to LCD circuits with a potentiometer to adjust the display brightness. In Rockford, Tech Wizards "made science fun," according to the teachers at Barbour Language Academy where 4-H teen teachers worked with fourth and fifth grade youth in an Arduino training program.
These 4-H youth traveled to the 2014 Illinois Statewide 4-H Robotics Competition at the University of Illinois campus in Champaign-Urbana to serve as 4-H Science Ambassadors for other youth. At this event they taught more than 400 youth and community members how to build a squishy circuit, and how to solder a blinking LED badge.
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.