Written By: Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator
At Worlds, the youth will compete in teamwork, programming and driving competitions. In addition, they are eligible for team awards for energy, journal, design and research project. Throughout the competition, these youth will also network with teams from around the world as they promote 4-H through their team booth.
Since May of 2017, the youth have been learning about this year’s Ring Master Challenge in preparation for the build season. Using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, competition team members developed, designed, and practiced their robot driving skills. In addition, the 4-H’ers maintain an engineering journal of their robot design process in order to develop and strengthen their record keeping skills. Participants also demonstrate and hone their public speaking and research skills through the annual STEM Research Project which is also component of the competition.
Supported by six 4-H volunteer mentors and parents, this group of 4-H youth competed as the only 4-H team in Connecticut. While 4-H volunteer mentors are there to guide and facilitate the youth, 4-Hers do all the design and construction work. Each member of the team is assigned a leadership role in a specific area. Team members meet 1-2 times per week for 8 months of the year and then 2 to 6 times a week as the competition gets closer. Along with the leadership, STEM, teamwork, communication, citizenship and life skills that the youth gain they also develop entrepreneurial skills designing and running fundraisers to cover the expenses of the robot and competition fees.
Members implement the values of the 4-H motto to Make the Best Better by improving their robot after practice and competition sessions. 4-H members note that they
have benefited from participating in the VEX 4-H Robotics Program by gaining and enhancing their skills; for example, in the area of spatial geometry or in programming their robot using the C language. Also, these experiences have provided opportunities for them to demonstrate and strengthen their teamwork and cooperation skills in preparation for their future education and careers. In fact, during the qualification rounds at the State Competition, the team was twice awarded the Judges Award for Spirit and Energy at the Regional Level and they were the Teamwork Challenge winners on the state level. The competition members also serve as mentors to the non-competition 4-H VEX Robotics group members. Lastly, members see their experiences in VEX 4-H Robotics helping them to identify future career opportunities. Beyond the VEX Robot competition, this project group of the Granby 4-H Club also attends UConn STEM events, participates in community service activities as well as county-level activities including the annual Hartford County 4-H Fair.
UConn 4-H is the youth development program of the UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4-H.UConn.edu or call 860-486-4127.