Six youth from the Granby 4-H Club won the State VEX Robotics competition and qualified to represent Connecticut at the VEX Robotics World Championship, April 29-May 1, in Louisville, Ky.
At Worlds, the youth competed in teamwork, programming and driving competitions. In addition, they were eligible for team awards for energy, journal, design and a research project. Throughout the competition, they also networked with teams from around the world by promoting 4-H through their team booth. The team placed in the top 5 percent in programing and top 11 percent in Worlds.
Since May 2017, these 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-Hers 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 a 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 one or two times per week for eight months of the year and then two to six 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. These experiences also 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, and 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.
Editor’s Note: The author is the Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator.