Extension News

Robotics Event Highlights Life Skills Learned through 4-H, SCI


AMES, Iowa – As frustration mounted mere hours before the tournament, leader Priscilla Delgado sat down with the Science Center of Iowa (SCI) 4-H’ers and tried to remind them of the things they had learned. The 10-member team had been working for four months to learn new computer software, complete robotic challenges and create a skit on new car safety technologies in preparation for the FIRST LEGO League (FLL) robotics tournament, yet they still had two challenges to finish before the next day’s regional event.

“I reminded them that it was their first year,” said Delgado, an AmeriCorps member. “I told them we would go to the competition, learn from others, learn from what we have done and celebrate it.”

Her 4-H’ers were not to be persuaded into simply learning from the experience though. One jumped up, declared they would pull an all-nighter to finish what they started, and within moments, those who could stay were on board, some parents set out to stock the snack food supply and the group buckled down, working until 4 a.m. to complete their challenges.

“By the time I got home it was 5 a.m., and we had to be at the competition at 7,” said Delgado. “The kids were not one bit tired though because they were so excited.”

Despite not making it to state competition, the team learned a lot from the experience and is eager to use those things again to compete in another event as part of the Iowa 4-H Foundation’s Gala.

“The kids are really excited for the opportunity to compete in robotics again,” said Delgado.

Robotics Challenges to be Featured at 4-H Gala

The Science Center of Iowa (SCI) and Iowa State University Extension 4-H Youth Development have teamed up for the event Feb. 20, beginning at 12 p.m. with the arrival of selected robotics 4-H teams and clubs from across the state of Iowa.

 “It’s a great partnership to have between the Science Center and ISU Extension because we have the expertise in providing positive youth experiences and they have the state-of-the art facilities that enhance learning,” said Shelly Greving, marketing coordinator for the Iowa 4-H Foundation.

At 12:30 p.m. two challenges will be released – one that uses robotics hardware and programming software produced by LEGO® and another that requires kids to take a bucket of spare parts and create a robot. The teams then will have until 5 p.m. to design and build robots that meet the challenges. Robot demonstrations and an awards ceremony follow from 5-6 p.m.

“The upcoming robotics event matches well with the mission of both organizations. It’s a great time to demonstrate learning and to celebrate the kids,” said Cindy Anderson, director of the Iowa Learning Center. “SCI is all about how to learn, not what to learn; the energy and creativity these events have is outstanding.”

Family, friends, gala attendees and members of the public are invited and encouraged to attend and watch the event unfold or stop in to watch the robotics demonstration afterward beginning at 5 p.m. Throughout the event (from 2:30-6:30 p.m.), non-robotics 4-H science, engineering and technology (SET) clubs also will showcase and share what they’ve learned through fun hands-on activities for visitors.

“As an event, it is a great opportunity for kids to bring together everything they have learned, and it’s a demonstration of learning and communication, which are important parts of 4-H,” said Holly Bignall, an ISU Extension program specialist. “The awards will not be only for the most successful robots, but also for things like elegant solutions, creativity, teamwork and good sportsmanship – all the different things it takes to be successful in the real world.”

The SCI and 4-H organization have worked together for several years. This past year, however, brought their partnership to a new level through the SCI 4-H club, as they work together to meet an increasing need for hands-on programs in the SET fields.

In the past, SCI has hosted other youth robotics competitions including regional tournaments for FLL and a robotics scrimmage. They also provide a weekly meeting place for the SCI 4-H club, one that was begun last year to help interest and excite Polk County kids about SET fields. Robotics was one of the stronger interest areas when Delgado initiated the club, but there is also a group of members interested in astronomy. As she works to recruit high school students who can work on their own science projects and help with the younger ages, Delgado is excited about the future, the diversity of the club, the variety of possibilities to explore through the SCI and 4-H and the life skills learned from experiences like the robotics event.

“The kids learned a lot about teamwork from working on robotics,” she said. It takes more than one person to solve problems “and that goes for the real world as well. They also learned how to respect everyone’s input and opinion because everyone has them.”

About Iowa 4-H Clubs

Iowa youth “learn by doing” in 4-H clubs throughout the state. 4-H clubs can be general interest or focus on specific topics such as robotics, drama, photography, clothing, shooting sports,  gardening, communications, woodworking, food and nutrition or just about any topic that interests kids and teens. Contact your Iowa State University Extension county office, www.extension.iastate.edu/content/county-offices/, to find out about clubs in your county.


About the Iowa 4-H Youth Development Program

4-H is the nation’s largest youth development organization, serving more than 6 million young people across America with programs in leadership, citizenship, communication and life skills. One in five Iowa school-age youth are involved in 4-H. In Iowa, 4-H Youth Development is headquartered at the Iowa State University campus in Ames. 4-H is supported by federal, state and county funding, private grants and donations, and fees. For more information about joining 4-H, contact your Iowa State University Extension county office at www.extension.iastate.edu/content/county-offices/ or visit www.extension.iastate.edu/4H.


About the Science Center of Iowa (SCI)

The Science Center of Iowa (SCI) has a 35-year history of providing informal science education. In May 2005, SCI opened a new 110,000 square-foot, $62 million facility devoted to lifelong learning featuring six dynamic experience platforms and a changing exhibitions platform where participants can explore the more than 150 new interactive exhibits and experiment with the variety of live programming offered. By placing the power of learning in the hands of the participant, the programmatic emphasis is not on “what” to learn, but “how” to learn. SCI also features central Iowa’s first IMAX Theater, a 216-seat, 70-foot dome theater, the 175-seat John Deere Adventure Theater showcasing live performances and the 50-foot dome planetarium, the Star Theater. The Iowa Learning Center is a wing within the new SCI, housing the educational programs that link to formal education and features resources for educators and students, science discovery labs, the renowned science-based preschool, as well as outreach and distance learning programs.


Contacts :

Holly Bignall, 4-H Youth Development, (515) 294-2078, hbignall@iastate.edu

Cindy Anderson, Director of the Iowa Learning Center, (515) 274-6868, cindy.anderson@sciowa.org

Shelly Greving, Iowa 4-H Foundation, (515) 294-1607, shellyg@iastate.edu

Hannah McCulloh, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-9915, hmac@iastate.edu

Laura Sternweis, Extension Communications and External Relations, (515) 294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu