COLUMBIA, Mo. – Across Missouri, children as young as 5 will build small robots as part of 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) on Wednesday, Oct. 10.
NYSD is the premier national rallying event for the year-round 4-H science program. It brings together youth, volunteers and educators from the nation’s 111 land-grant universities and colleges to simultaneously complete the National Science Experiment.
This year’s experiment, designed by the Ohio State University Extension, is the 4-H Eco-Bot Challenge. Youth will be challenged to “Build a Bot” from a simple kit, which includes the head of a toothbrush, a watch battery, a miniature motor and tape. The toothbrush head’s bristles, powered by the motor, move over a surface to perform a simulated environmental cleanup. Youth can measure their success in controlling the robot by recording how much of their spill is swept up by the Eco-Bot.
There are 4-H robotics groups in almost every county in the state, said Bill Pabst, University of Missouri Extension state 4-H youth development specialist in Columbia. Missouri 4-H has been offering robotics activities at camps for 15 years. Six years ago, the national 4-H program embraced robotics by offering a curriculum and Missouri 4-H started offering robotics as a club project. Today, there are more than 800 youth and 175 volunteers in Missouri enrolled in robotics projects.
“Kids love this stuff,” Pabst said. “These things and these kids are going to change our world.”
In addition to having fun, 4-H members learn how the hands-on experiments and complementary programs have practical applications that range from Roomba robots for household vacuum cleaning to precision-agriculture equipment for more efficient farming.
Pabst said 4-H groups in Cole and St. Francois counties are working on robots designed to move and take pictures underwater. Devices such as these could be used to test water quality or for many other applications. The Office of Naval Research is sponsoring this project nationally.
Robotics also creates a pathway to higher education for 4-H members, Pabst said. Recent studies being analyzed by University of Missouri researchers show a direct link between 4-H membership and university attendance, and subsequent greater success in life.
MFA Foundation is a major contributor to the robotics program, Pabst said, because the company is visionary in seeing the practical applications for modern agriculture.
Missouri 4-H and the Missouri AfterSchool Network are sponsoring the Missouri Educational Robotics Conference, Nov. 9-11 in Jefferson City.
About 4-H National Youth Science Day
For more than 100 years, 4-H has been at the forefront of teaching youth about science, engineering and technology. Created to combat a shortage of American young people pursuing science college majors and careers, 4-H National Youth Science Day seeks to spark an early youth interest and leadership in science.
Currently, more than 5 million young people across the nation participate in 4-H science, engineering and technology programming in topics as varied as robotics, rocketry, wind power, GPS mapping, agricultural science, filmmaking, water quality and biofuels. And, through the One Million New Scientists, One Million New Ideas campaign, 4-H has undertaken a bold goal of engaging 1 million additional young people in science, engineering and technology programming by 2013.
This year’s 4-H National Youth Science Day is jointly sponsored by Lockheed Martin, Toyota, Donaldson Filtration Solutions, Motorola, Walmart and John Deere.
4-H is a community of 6 million young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills. National 4-H Council is the private-sector, nonprofit partner of 4-H National Headquarters, located at the National Institute of Food and Agriculture (NIFA) within USDA. 4-H programs are implemented by the 111 land-grant colleges and universities and the Cooperative Extension System through 3,100 local extension offices across the country.