A Wisconsin 4-H robotics team from Racine County brought home the gold from the remote control robotics contest at the National 4-H Engineering Challenge last week after competing against eight other teams from around the country. The two-person team edged out competitors from Ohio and Maryland on September 23, 2012 at Purdue University in Lafayette, IN.
Team members Christian Gianou and Joshua Thornton started participating in the robotics project in May 2012 under the guidance of Racine County 4-H adult leaders Kirk Weese and Joan Gianou. Chris and Josh were invited to attend the National 4-H Engineering Challenge after taking first place in the VEX® Robotics System challenge at this summer’s Wisconsin State Fair Robotics Rally.
Teams competing in the National 4-H Engineering Challenge robotics contest had 12 hours to create and program a robot to complete a series of tasks. Teams accumulated points based on how many tasks their robots could complete in each three-minute round as well as the difficulty of the tasks, like dropping a billiard ball through a tube or balancing the ball on top of a wooden peg. “The national level had some intense teams, but Chris and Josh came with the desire to just have fun as they were working on their robot,” says Racine County 4-H robotics project leader Joan Gianou.
The National 4-H Engineering Challenge started 62 years ago as an agriculture tractor operators contest. The event has since expanded to include competitions in aerospace, computers, small engines, welding and more. “Robotics competitions were added to the event about four years ago,” says Kirk Weese, National 4-H Engineering Challenge vice-chairman and Racine County 4-H robotics project leader.
Around the state, Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development programs have been adding opportunities for youth to increase their science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) skills, including the robotics program in Racine County. “We’re extremely proud of the youth and volunteer leaders who have committed to building a quality program that not only exposes youth to technology, but is designed to construct deeper knowledge and introduce greater challenges as the youth progress through the project,” says Tracy Strother, Associate Professor of 4-H Youth Development for Racine County UW-Extension. “The problem solving skills youth develop through 4-H projects build a strong foundation for future success in the workplace.”
To learn more about Wisconsin 4-H Youth Development STEM opportunities available around the state, visit http://www.uwex.edu/ces/4h/set/index.cfm.