Monroe County, West Virginia 4-H’ers are building more than Lego robots; they’re building character as they prepare to compete in the FIRST Lego League Robotics World Championship in St. Louis, Missouri on April 27-30.
This group of budding innovators, known as the Boa Constructors, won the state-level robotics competition, earning them the opportunity to be international contenders. The robotics program is offered through 4-H, a program of the West Virginia University Extension Service.
Members of the Boa Constructors robotics team will present their robot Quazzy and its ability to pick up and deposit trash as part of this year’s challenge called “Trash Trek.”
The team designed the small, 3 pound robot from scratch, with no instructions, in order to customize it for the World Championship. “Quazzy” had arms for lifting objects.
“It was challenging, but it was really fun to use our imaginations,” said team member Ian Jackson.
Team members range from 10 to 13-years-old and include Ian Jackson, Luke Jackson, Owen Jackson, Sarah McClure, Cade McMunigal, Bryce Sabol, Seana Sabol, Lane Skinner and Riley Sparks. They are supervised by Callie McMunigal, Johna Jackson and Joe Jackson.
“It’s amazing how much these kids have learned, not only about science and technology, but about leadership, teamwork, communication and so many other valuable life skills,” said team leader Callie McMunigal. “They’re limitless.”
The Boa Constructors must master three components of the competition for a panel of judges including core values, project and robot design.
The competition begins with a 10 minute oral presentation. Next, teams move to the game table where they present their robot and its operations. Judges then interview teams about their robot and programming, research, trouble-shooting and problem solving in the engineering process. Teams are judged by how they work together and have mastered the core values of communication, cooperation and anticipation.
According to WVU Extension Service 4-H STEM Specialist Jen Robertson-Honecker, in the past ten years, the emergence of robotics teams in West Virginia has escalated to 100 teams, with over a quarter being 4-H teams or teams supported by their county West Virginia University Extension Service office.
The popularity of robotics teams has continued to rise as 4-H clubs place a bigger emphasis on expanding youth’s knowledge and access to science, technology, engineering and math.
“The FIRST motto is that this is the only sport where every kid can go pro, and my hope is to see 4-H STEM bring that opportunity to every county in West Virginia with FLL,” Honecker said.
In order to send the Boa Constructors to the FLL World Championship, the team must raise $15,000. Thanks to organized soup dinners, silent auctions and other fundraising efforts led by the 4-H community, they are over half way to their goal.
Those interested in helping the Boa Constructors compete can donate online at http://bit.ly/FLLFund.
Part of what sparked interest in 4-H STEM programming was a visit and class given at Monroe County 4-H camp from WVU’s STEM Ambassador, Heather Jewell. WVU Extension’s 4-H unit hosts a STEM Ambassador program each summer. The program brings college students to 4-H camps where they deliver STEM-based programming to youths.
“There is nothing like seeing a kid’s eyes light up when you show them something new,” said Jewell, a senior geology major at WVU’s Eberly College of Arts and Sciences. “If we can plant a seed in every child’s mind that a STEM career is possible, then we have succeeded.”
FLL was created through a partnership between FIRST and Lego in 1998 to get children excited about science and technology, and teach them valuable employment and life skills. West Virginia’s FLL is sponsored by the West Virginia
Robotics Alliance and the Educational Resource Center at the NASA IV&V Facility in Fairmont, West Virginia.
For more than a century, 4-H has focused on agricultural science, electricity, mechanics, entrepreneurship and natural sciences. Today, 4-H out-of-school opportunities also exist in subjects like rocketry, robotics, biofuels, renewable energy and computer science so the program can continue making the best better.
To learn more about new opportunities in the 4-H program, visit www.ext.wvu.edu, or contact your local office of the WVU Extension Service.
CONTACT: Cassie Thomas, WVU Extension Service
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