NICE DONATION — Representatives from 3 Rivers Communications, Cheryl Sawyer and Mike Mills present a check for $2,500 to Adele Stenson MSU-Pondera County Extension Agent and three 4-H members from Pondera and Teton counties who are enrolled in the Robots 4-H Project. 3 Rivers awarded the grant to help build the robotics program in Pondera County. The grant purchased several robotics kits. Courtesy Photo from 3 Rivers Communications
Submitted by Adele Stenson P.C. Extension Office
When you think of 4-H, you might think of “cows and plows” but like everything else, 4-H has evolved over time.
Agriculture is still an important component of the program, but 4-H now offers a variety of other projects to meet a myriad of interests.
One of the newer 4-H projects available in Pondera County is Robotics.
The program got its start a couple years ago with two kits purchased from local donations. This year, 4-H parent Lisa Schmidt and her son Will teamed up with MSU Extension in Pondera County to grow the program with additional resources.
Schmidt wrote a grant proposal to 3 Rivers Communications to purchase additional Robotics kits, including some geared toward elementary age children and some geared for middle school age youth.
3 Rivers awarded the Pondera 4-H Council $2,500 to purchase Robotics kits and to pay travel expenses for a Robotics specialist to travel to schools in the county next fall to demonstrate and promote the program.
The intent is to offer Robotics sessions after school in Conrad, Valier and Dupuyer for several weeks in the fall. These sessions will be sponsored by the Pondera County Extension office and 4-H, but will be open to all youth.
The Robotics kits will also be available for schools to check out and utilize within the classroom.
Because each kit utilizes technology where the participant can program the robot through the computer, the kits have a limited shelf life as technology progresses. Organizers and funders want the kits to be utilized as much as possible before they become obsolete.
Students follow directions to build a robot from the Lego™ pieces in the kit, and then connect their robot to the computer and program it to perform a set task. They learn how to utilize a variety of sensors and motors to make the robot perform.
After they have learned the basics from a few introductory building and programming sessions, they will have the chance to design and program their own creation.
Robotics is designed to develop skills in mechanics, engineering, and math, but for the youth who participate, it is just plain fun. Four 4-H members this spring have been working in Robotics, three from Pondera County and one from Teton County. On April 26 they took what they had learned this spring and put it to use as they instructed Conrad youth in grades one through three in how to build and program a simple robot.
Without the assistance of sponsors, this program would not be possible at all, and certainly would not be growing to the point where many youth can participate in the after school sessions.
In addition to the 3 Rivers grant, Will Early wrote a grant proposal to the Montana 4-H Foundation and received an additional $100 from that program. Thanks to donations from 3 Rivers, Intercontinental Truck Body, Wingina 4-H Club, Sand Rockets 4-H Club, the Pondera 4-H Council, the Montana 4-H Center, the Montana 4-H Foundation and the Conrad Community Education Foundation, many youth in the region will have the opportunity to explore new interests and create new skills through the 4-H Robotics program.
Editor’s note: The MSU Extension Office does not endorse the LEGO brand, but that is the type of product for which the programs were developed.
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