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Got Science? We do!

Posted: October 5, 2011

4-H Science projects reach over 5 million youth nationwide with hands-on learning experiences to encourage young minds. Allegheny County 4-H has been chosen to pilot two new 4-H Science projects: Power of the Wind and 4-H Robotics. These two projects are directed at middle school aged youth who are interested in developing their science and engineering interests while working in teams on hands-on activities.

Power of the Wind
In the Power of the Wind project, youth are guided to use the engineering design process to find solutions to problems related to wind power. Youth work in teams to analyze problems and find solutions that balance options and constraints. They test what they’ve made to see how it works, then make adjustments and test further, as necessary. Throughout the design process, adult facilitators cultivate independence and mastery by guiding and asking questions in a caring environment. The challenges are designed to assist youth to learn by doing.

As youth construct wind powered devices, they learn about the wind and how its energy is used to do work and produce electricity, learn how geography affects available wind power capacity, and consider the factors necessary for a successful wind power project.

The first activity challenges the youth to design and test a wind powered boat. The youth become familiar with the engineering design process as they work through the steps of brainstorming a solution to the challenge, building and testing a prototype, and making changes to improve their design. Later activities have youth building wind turbines that can lift objects and generate electricity.  They are applying the engineering design process to a challenge and learning to “think like an engineer”.

4-H Robotics: Engineering for Today and Tomorrow
The 4-H Robotics curriculum uses robotics as a means of engaging youth and developing interesting and challenging experiences with science, engineering and technology. As they participate in 4-H Robotics, youth:
• Build an understanding of basic science concepts related to robotics;
• Apply the processes of scientific inquiry and engineering design;
• Build skills in science, engineering and technology;
• Use the tools of technology to enhance their learning;
• Explore related careers; and
• Apply the skills and knowledge they are developing to new challenges.

Junk Drawer Robotics challenges middle school youth to build robots from everyday items. In each module, youth learn about a different aspect of robotics and then design and build a robot using what they learned. Youth use their Robotics Notebooks to record their learning experiences, robotic designs and data from their investigations.

Throughout the Power of the Wind and the Robotics curriculum, youth are encouraged to make connections to careers related to science, engineering and technology. Online resources support, extend, and enrich the learning experience for youth and facilitators.

Allegheny County 4-H is looking for adult facilitators for these two new projects. If you would like to use these projects with your club or youth group, or would like to form a 4-H Science club in your community, or you can provide some expertise to a 4-H Science club, please contact either Susan Taylor or Brack Barr  at (412)473-2540. Come join the 4-H Science team and inspire the next generation of scientists and engineers. Help us meet the National 4-H challenge of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013.

These two projects were developed as part to the 4-H Science initiative. The National 4-H Science initiative addresses America’s critical need for more scientists and engineers by engaging youth in activities and projects that combine nonformal education with design challenges and hands-on, inquiry based learning in a positive youth development setting. These experiences engage youth and help them build knowledge, skills, and abilities in science, engineering, mathematics, and technology. 4-H Science is preparing today’s youth and America’s future workforce. For more information about the 4-H Science initiative, go to http://www.4-h.org/youth-development-programs/4-h-science-programs/