Tag Archives: engineering

Building for the Future

Most of you are already familiar with STEM, the acronym referring to “Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.” Many of our 4-H leaders have been busy trying to engage young people across Michigan in exciting programs that encourage STEM learning. Elaine McKee, 4-H program coordinator in Berrien County, is one of them.

This summer, with the help of a $1,500 grant from the Molly Schuler Foundation and a $2,500 Heart of Cook award, McKee is working to bring LEGO Robotics to her county in a way that young people will enjoy. LEGO Robotics is a popular set of LEGO kits that enable individuals to learn the basics of engineering and computer programming by building small-scale robots. McKee ran a pilot program using LEGO Robotics at Summer My Way camp at Ballard Elementary School, and the young people who were involved had a wonderful time.

Using LEGO Robotics and the same program McKee taught at the summer camp, the grade-level students in Berrien County 4-H will have an opportunity to design robots that can perform simple tasks. This type of project prepares the young people for robotics clubs in high school and teaches them the foundation of skills to go into a STEM field as a career when they are finished with school.

Great job, Elaine!

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Wayne County 4-H receives STEM grant

Some Wayne County middle schoolers will be having fun this summer and acquiring important STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) skills at the same time thanks to a grant from Cognizant’s Making the Future After-school and Summer Program. The program seeks to inspire young learners to pursue STEM disciplines by creating fun and hands-on learning experiences. Michigan State University Extension 4-H Youth Development will use the $6,000 grant in the summer of 2014 to expand the TechXcite program, an after-school engineering curriculum developed by National 4-H and Duke University’s Pratt School of Engineering.

Through the program, approximately 100 young people will participate in learning modules that focus on transportation, bio-medical technology, green building and solar energy. They’ll create exciting projects such as a bionic arm, a solar oven, a solar-powered car and rain barrels.

Extension educator Laurie Rivetto leads the Wayne County program and Extension 4-H program coordinator Kristy Oosterhouse is the go-to person for the overall 4-H TEchXcite program.

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4-H Discovery Camp inspires interest in science careers

In the United States, a small percentage of U.S. college graduates earn science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) degrees. However, an increased demand exists for professionals in these fields. Michigan 4-H Youth Development strives to encourage interest in STEM.

4-H Discovery Camp is just one of the ways they’ve succeeded. The camp, which took place June 24‒28, gives young people an opportunity to become acquainted with the natural resources and agriculture industry in Michigan as both relate to current issues and technologies affecting energy and the environment.

The five-day exploration experience’s home base is Michigan State University where attendees stayed in dorms and experienced campus life.

The MSU campus offered a wealth of experiences for the kids who ranged in age from 13 to 19.

Attendees toured campus labs to see the cutting-edge research revolving around energy for the future. They explored the MSU Recycling facilities to learn about the impact recycling has on energy and the environment.

Participants also took part in their own “Bio Blast” bioenergy experiments at MSU’s Shaw Hall.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich. The experiment required participants to mix warm tap water, sugar and yeast in a water bottle. In this photo, two boys place a balloon over the top of the water bottle. Photo Credit: Mariah Montenegro, ANR Communications

At MSU’s Farrall Agriculture Engineering Hall, they had the opportunity to make biodiesel from agriculture products, and compare and calculate energy density. They even took a sample of it home at the close of camp. Campers visited MSU’s woody biomass plantation where Paul Bloese, an MSU forestry research assistant, taught them how wood products are used for energy. They visited the Anaerobic Digestion Research and Education Center to learn about anaerobic digestion research and impacts on energy. Then back at Farrall Hall, they visited with Dr. Christopher Saffron, assistant professor of biosystems and agricultural engineering, who spoke about his ongoing research in bioenergy.

However, attendees didn’t restrict their scientific exploration to East Lansing. They had the opportunity to visit the W. K. Kellogg Biological Station where they collected data at research plots. At the Carbon Green BioEnergy ethanol plant, they toured the facilities, met the staff and discussed energy use and impacts. Other visits included the W.K. Kellogg Bird Sanctuary, the Dow/Cobblestone Builders Net Zero House, the Midland Center for the Arts and the Gratiot County Wind Farm.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich.

Attendees of 4-H Discovery Camp took part in a Bio Blast experiment on June 24, 2013, at Michigan State University’s Shaw Hall in East Lansing, Mich. The experiment required participants to mix warm tap water, sugar and yeast in a water bottle. In this photo, the girls complete the final step of the experiment: to measure the circumference of the balloon by wrapping a string around it and reading the length on the measuring tape. Photo Credit: Mariah Montenegro, ANR Communications

Throughout the week, campers took part in a solar car engineering challenge in which they designed, built and raced their own solar cars.

This is the fourth year 4-H has offered the camp. Though it was canceled the second year, due to low enrollment, word has gotten out. This year, more than 75 youth applied for the camp that has the capacity to admit 45 campers.

In a survey of last year’s attendees, more than 90 percent of respondents said that they are more likely to pursue a degree or career in a bioenergy-related field following the completion of 4-H Discovery Camp. It looks like the camp puts kids on the path to a science-related future.

Read more here.

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4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp recognized as one of top 4-H science programs, report on study released

We knew all along that Michigan State University Extension’s 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp is a great pre-college program for kids to learn through outdoor hands-on experiences and have fun in the process. Others have noticed as well. In 2008, the annual seven-day camp held on the shores of Lake Huron in Presque Isle, Michigan, was named as a 4-H Program of Distinction. In 2009, it won the National 4-H and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service Natural Resources Conservation Education Award.

 In 2011, it was selected out of 70 nominations of promising science programs through a structured process of nominations and vetting as one of eight top science programs in a National 4-H science program in-depth case study. The study was part of the 4-H Youth Development Program’s National Science Initiative evaluation funded by the Noyce Foundation through a grant to National 4-H Council.

A new report was recently released on the case study. “Priming the Pipeline: Lessons from Promising 4-H Science Programs,” written by Derek Riley and Alisha Butler from Policy Studies Associates, features the camp and the seven other selected science programs. It covers practices in the following areas: youth outreach and recruitment, staff and science volunteers, professional development, science curricula and pedagogy, youth development and attitudes toward science, partner organizations and resource support, program evaluation, and program sustainability and scale-up.

Senior program leader Judy Ratkos serves as camp administrator and co-directs the camp with 4-H volunteer Bob Patterson.

Judy said, “It is truly an honor for the staff and volunteers involved in 4-H Great Lakes & Natural Resources Camp to have it recognized as one of the top 4-H science programs in the nation. To have it held up as a model for other youth science programs – both within and outside of 4-H – creates awareness that MSU Extension can help lead the way in increasing science literacy among Michigan young people and increase the number of youth pursuing postsecondary education and careers in science.

“The lessons shared in this newly released report should be helpful to other 4-H science programs striving to be ‘SET Ready.’ A SET Ready 4-H experience is a program that is framed in science, engineering and technology concepts based on SET standards and intentionally targets the development of SET abilities and the outcomes articulated by the 4-H SET Logic Model,” Judy said.

Congratulations to Judy and her team! They inspire the rest of us to make the best even better.

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MSU Extension works closely with award-winning teacher contributing to environmental education

One of the outstanding things about our organization is the way that our partnerships build capacity in community leaders.

 Bob Thomson, a Sanborn Elementary School teacher in Ossineke, Mich., who works closely with Michigan State University Extension, won a Chevrolet GREEN Educator Award. Through the award, Earth Force and the General Motors Foundation team up to reward educators who integrate quality environmental education into their schools. Bob works with Michigan Sea Grant, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, the NOAA Thunder Bay National Marine Sanctuary, 4‑H Youth Development and Huron Pines AmeriCorps program to guide his students in learning about the Thunder Bay watershed beyond the classroom.

 MSU Extension is connected with Bob Thomson’s work in three ways: 

  • The Northeast Michigan Great Lakes Stewardship Initiative (NE MI GLSI) initially supported Bob’s work. This is a regional collaborative network, part of a statewide place-based education programming network supported by the Great Lakes Fishery Trust. Michigan Sea Grant, partnering with 4-H, facilitated the early planning discussions dating back to 2006 in establishing this regional northeastern Michigan network. Today, Sea Grant and 4-H continue to serve as leadership partners in facilitating the NE MI GLSI work in our region. 
  • The Toyota-supported 4-H2O Project, a water science and education initiative, supports Bob and his work. The Toyota 4-H2O Project is funded by a grant from Toyota to National 4-H Council and the Michigan 4-H Foundation. Sea Grant and 4-H partners locally, co-coordinating 4-H2O efforts with the help of Extension educators Sienna Suszek and Melanie Chiodini, Extension program associate Tammy Barrett and Extension program instructor Les Thomas. 
  • Sea Grant is a direct partner to Bob’s project, supporting Great Lakes fisheries and aquatic invasive species studies conducted with his class. Brandon Schroeder, Northeast Michigan District Sea Grant Extension educator, serves as a resource expert to his class and participates in several of their exploration field trips.

 Brandon shares about Sanborn’s place-based water science education partnership, “What’s most exciting is that MSUE has been able to directly support Bob’s class through different yet complementary angles, strategically bringing to the school partnership ‘table’ both 4-H Youth Development (focused on enhancing youth learning) teaming up with Michigan Sea Grant (fostering Great Lakes science education and engagement). This reflects another great example of collaboration between two MSU Extension programs and expertise, and Bob’s class has benefited greatly as a result!”

View this video featuring Bob’s class as one of several school projects of the NE MI GLSI:

 See the October 2011 edition of “Upwellings,” a quarterly Sea Grant publication, to read more about Bob and his relationship with Sea Grant. The newsletter featured his work as an exemplary model of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education programming. (See page 5.)

 Read this fact sheet for details about fifth and sixth grade students from Sanborn Elementary studying the Thunder Bay watershed through the help of these collaborations.

 These partnerships are great examples of how our work branches out, enabling others in the community to improve lives.

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4-H’ers learn STEM through hands-on ROV experience

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.

4-H members test ROV

A group of 4-H members tests the ROV they designed and created in a large water tank at the Great Lakes Naval Memorial and Museum in Muskegon. Photo by David Radloff

 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.

 

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Wayne County 4-H Tech Wizards receives award

Wayne County Children and Family Services and Michigan State University Extension established a youth mentoring program to serve adjudicated and at-risk youth throughout Wayne County. Back in January, I told you about 4-H Tech Wizards, a group-mentoring program that matches professionals who work in science, engineering, technology and math fields with youth in Ottawa and Wayne counties. Earlier this month, Wayne County received a 2011 NACo (National Association of Counties) Achievement Award for Tech Wizards. The annual award recognizes innovative county government programs.

 4-H Tech Wizards addresses the need for youth at risk for involvement with the juvenile justice system to engage in activities that will expose them to technology and technology-related careers. The program also involves the youth in community service using technology to address a community need. It puts an emphasis on building family and community supports that promote college access for youth.

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