Improving science literacy is one of Michigan State University Extension’s targeted programs, part of the “I Know MI Numbers” initiative. It’s also a goal of National 4-H. To address increased demand for science and technology professionals, 4-H is working nationwide to reach a bold goal of engaging one million new young people in science programs by 2013.
To help meet that goal, forty-two 4-H Exploration Days participants from Delta and Schoolcraft counties took part in the building and testing of remote operated underwater vehicles (ROVs) at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon prior to arriving on the MSU campus. A committee of youth planned the Exploration Days side trip and selected the ROV as an activity that they felt had educational value and would interest their peers and help them gain knowledge.
Youth explored and learned about the physics of buoyancy and balance while working in groups of four to design and build their own ROVs. Once they had their vehicles constructed, the groups tested their ROVs in large water tanks and maneuvered them via remote control to move forward and back, make left and right turns, and dive and surface just like real submarines.
Delta County Extension educator Dave Radloff explained that the goal was to encourage youth to explore STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) topics and gain a better understanding through hands-on experiences.
In addition to the ROV class, participants also spent the night in the USS Silversides, a World War II submarine, where they slept in the same berths as the brave men who once served our country.
Delta County 4-H Exploration Days participants also explored marketing and communication, and the use of technology by selling, writing and recording radio commercials to raise funds for the trip. The 27 Delta County 4-H members attending Exploration Days this year created 109 radio commercials. A local radio station, Mix106, graciously donated the airtime to make this 4‑H project possible.