To say 4-H at the Illinois State Fair was a success would be an understatement. Stir gently the 3,300+ exhibitors, a national media announcement with representatives from Google and Gov. Bruce Rauner present, perfect weather, an estimated 20,000 visitors to our exhibit area, and I can't imagine a better recipe to showcase what it means to be an Illinois 4-H member.

Google is donating $1.5 million dollars to advance computer science education around the country. Illinois was chosen for the site to make that historic announcement during the Illinois State Fair.

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.

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 following message came from a middle school teacher in Northern Illinois where Illinois 4-H has teamed with National 4-H Council to provide grant-funded 4-H robotics special interest clubs. She has seen the change in one young boy's life because of our valuable program.

"One of my boys has a difficult home life. His parents are getting a divorce, and it was really affecting his school work and attitude. He joined the club because his best friend also joined, but he was hesitant that it was for "losers."

Twenty-five teams of middle-school students from DuPage, Kane and Kendall counties displayed their technical, creative and teamwork skills during the 4-H Robotics Box Bot Showcase in Elgin on Saturday, March 22. Throughout the afternoon, 4-H members showcased their Lego Mindstorm robots in creativity, table performance, and technical categories. They also completed a teamwork challenge without their Bots.