4-H is doing robotics?

Our family has been involved with 4-H for over 16 years. It is the largest youth development program in the U.S. and from what I understand it reaches more than seven million youth. Normally when you hear of 4-H you think of agriculture, horticulture, livestock, home economics and various clubs like the Art Club, Shooting Club, Horse and Pony Club, Four Paws Club and other interesting clubs.

Recently, our local County Agent for 4-H Youth Development went out on a limb and worked with several volunteers to start a 4-H Robotics Club. In the past, our County Agent had branched out with the 4-H National Youth Science Day that taught youth about science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) projects. This latest undertaking fit in well with the STEM initiatives and in the end there were five teams that built and programmed Lego Mindstorms NXT 2.0 robots. We spent four days getting ready for the Regional competition that were held in Clark County, Kentucky.

The anticipation of the event was like the Carly Simon song “Anticipation” that was used in a Heinz ketchup commercial. After building and programming the robots the students were ready to compete. Below are a few pictures from the competition. First there was a Sumo competition followed by lunch and then a Canyon rescue competition.

2014 0412 4H robot wc vs wcCompetitors lining up their robots for the Sumo challenge

The Sumo competition was similar to the Sumo wrestlers where each robot tries to move the other robot out of a four-foot diameter ring. The first one to move the other robot out of the ring wins that match. Best two out of three wins the match and advances to the next round. All of the volunteers had hoped that one of our teams could make it to the Elite Eight. We use that term in Kentucky because each year the University of Kentucky Wildcat basketball teams shoot for the Elite Eight or Final Four. Well, in our very first competition, two of our five teams came in number 2 and number three out of 16 teams. We were proud of their finish and dedication.

2014 0412 4h robot wc won a matchVictory!

After the Sumo challenge, each of the 16 teams had to go back and build and program their bots to move through a “canyon.” The idea was that someone was hurt in a canyon and the robot had to bring them out. In effect, it was a maze. The 4-H students were very intense and all of the building and programming and testing taxed their brains.

2014 0412 4h robotics wc teams build & programPart of the youth working diligently

The day was long and some students became tired since they had to arrive at 7:30am. However, the idea of working together as a team and having the thrill of competing made the day worthwhile. Below is a short video that shows what goes on in a Sumo competition. The excitement and noise were astounding.

This post provides several thoughts: 4-H is staying current with the latest trend toward STEM, educational robotics are enjoyed by students and adults alike, and finally, if you have not joined a robotics club, consider 4-H. You’ll be glad you did.

Finally, this post congratulates our County Agent for her involvement in reaching out to the youth in the county that need a club like this and helps the country by developing a love of STEM.

Quote for the Day: “Far and away the best prize that life offers is the chance to work hard at work worth doing.”  — Theodore Roosevelt







  1. Jenny Cocanougher

    Thank you Mike for coaching and encouraging our 4-H members! I learned a lot that day! Dedicated volunteers who share their skills with youth are at the core of the 4-H Youth Development program. Looking forward to continuing this project!


    • Mike

      Your efforts to expand the reach of 4-H in the county has been fabulous and it has been a joy working with you throughout the past several years.


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