AMES, Iowa – With help from a friendly robot named Dash, 17 Clover Kids from four counties practiced their skills in programming, problem-solving and creativity. They were participating in the Iowa 4-H Wonder League Robotics Exposition, held April 6 in Ames.
“Iowa State University Extension and Outreach 4-H Youth Development strives to be a leader in providing young people opportunities in science, technology, engineering and mathematics, also know as STEM. This event provides youth in grades K-3 an opportunity to learn and showcase computer science skills,” said Nicole Hanson, a 4-H youth program specialist.
Wonder League is a global robotics program that allows small teams of youth to design solutions for real-world science and technology challenges through computer programming. The goal is to instill problem-solving and creativity skills in youth while they build meaningful relationships with their peers.
The 2019 Wonder League season theme was oceanography, leading teams through five, story-based missions under the sea. As part of the Iowa 4-H Wonder League Robotics Exposition, teams were asked to complete two new, multi-part challenges that included programming the robots to return a sea creature to its natural habitat and launch sea turtle eggs into a nest, according to Kacy Sampson, Iowa 4-H AmeriCorps member who works with the Clover Kids program.
Dawn Neighbors, a West Pottawattamie Wonder League Coach commented, “This was my first experience with being a coach for coding and robotics. I loved seeing the creativity the kids had and what they could program the robots to do.”
Challenges throughout the day provided youth opportunities to showcase skills they learned during the Wonder League season. “It’s fun to see the youth collaborate to construct such unique solutions using the robots. Wonder League is clear proof that our future is bright with these creative minds,” said Sampson.
Colton Whitaker, a Story County third grader said, “It was awesome to be able to work with kids from all over the state and use Dash in ways we never have before.”
This year, 21 Clover Kids teams across the state participated in Wonder League. “Wonder League has provided an exciting opportunity for youth in grades K-3 to learn basic coding concepts in fun and engaging ways,” said Hanson.
An additional Clover Kids robotics experience is planned for Sunday, Aug. 11 at the Iowa State Fair. For more information on robotics opportunities within the Iowa 4-H Youth Development program, please contact your ISU Extension and Outreach county office or visit the Iowa 4-H website at www.extension.iastate.edu/4h.
Photo caption: Youth work to program Dash the robot to launch a plastic egg during the Iowa 4-H Wonder League Robotics Exposition.