Community Collaboration Helps Hancock 4-H’ers Pursue STEM Learning

Block Heads FTC TeamAMES, Iowa -- The Block Heads FTC Team from Garner received the Connect Award and the Winning Alliance Captain Team and advanced to the Iowa FIRST Tech Challenge Championship, at a recent competition in Cedar Falls. Their science, technology, engineering and math success is a result of collaboration among stakeholders including Iowa State University Extension and Outreach, business, parents -- and grandparents in this story-- to build a community-based approach to support STEM learning opportunities for youth.

Hancock County 4-H’er Andrew Dornbier enjoyed his experience in FIRST LEGO League and wanted to continue working with robotics, so he set out to start a new FIRST Tech Challenge Club. FTC is designed for those who want to compete head to head, using a sports model. Teams of students are responsible for designing, building and programming their robots to compete in an alliance format against other teams.

Dornbier shared his vision for this quest with several potential STEM stakeholders to solicit financial support, space to meet and technical help -- in terms of an engineer as a mentor. He found a partner in Stellar Industries Inc., a company in Garner, Iowa, to provide the team with financial support and an engineer mentor. The Hancock County Extension Council was willing to help support this effort and decided to start a First Tech Challenge 4-H Club. The Block Heads also received a grant through Rockwell Collins FIRST grants. Dornbier’s grandmother offered her basement for the group to meet.

Carol Opp, school enrichment coordinator with Hancock County Extension said, “The Block Heads are a group of young people that have formed great friendships through this experience. They are working to let others know more about FTC, and they also encourage other young people to get involved in STEM related opportunities.”

But without an email from Craig Martinson, a long-time FTC volunteer, school board member, Southeast STEM Advisory Board member and technician at Rockwell Collins, the story might not have been told. Martinson was so impressed with this rookie team, especially their willingness to overcome roadblocks and work independently to design their robot, that he contacted Lynne Campbell, North Central Region STEM manager to share their STEM story.

“I am so delighted that Mr. Martinson shared the Block Heads’ story with me, because it is an important story to tell for so many reasons. First, Andrew was persistent in finding partners to support his goal of starting an FTC Club. He demonstrated that students can advocate on their own behalf in order to reach their goals. Second, this story demonstrates how innovative partnerships are vital to support STEM learning opportunities for our youth. And, third, this story demonstrates the importance of family involvement in supporting STEM learning opportunities.”

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