By Austin Guoli
The 4-H program has been around for over 100 years and has seen many changes. However, innovative 4-H youth development educators have found several ways to stay relevant in today's world. One way is through the 4-H robotics program.
Through the robotics program, 4-H partners with cutting edge companies. A group of computer engineers from Cummins has volunteered with the Bartholomew County robotics club to educate 4-H members about science and engineering. They teach them about engineering design and demonstrate how the robots work.
The program started about three years ago at a Bartholomew County 4-H Council meeting where participants discussed a way to include science education past the traditional project into the 4-H curriculum.
Erica Bonnett, 4-H Youth Educator for Bartholomew County, said they were trying to branch out into new territory.
"When we think of 4-H we think of fair projects," said Bonnett. "The robotics competition brings in a lot of new kids."
Today the robotics program involves 3rd to 8th graders with half of them being new members. The project has reached the nontraditional 4-H member and has piqued the interest of youth that may not be exposed to 4-H through traditional avenues.
Through the robotics program, students learn various life skills such as teamwork, critical thinking, confidence building and a learn-by-doing approach. They learn teamwork by collaborating with other members for robotics competitions. Critical thinking is used for constructing and designing their robots.
Confidence building is used when they present their robot. Also, students see the relevance of science and engineering when using a hands-on approach when building their robot.
This learning-by-doing approach is the main focus of the 4-H program and helps the program change with the times to stay relevant.
"If we stay the same we can't compete with other clubs," said Bonnett.
Guoli is a senior in Ag Communications at Purdue University