K-State Research and Extension News
September 19, 2012
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4-H Science Day to Focus on Robotics, Can-do Attitude

Also see Kansas’ Night Sky Inspires Space Research

MANHATTAN, Kan. – Kids who shy away from science may limit their job prospects later in life.

“We are a science-based society, as technology is an essential part of everyday living and a key component in the workplace,” said Gary Gerhard, Kansas’ spokesperson for the 2012 edition of a 4-H-sponsored National Youth Science Day, Oct. 10: “The Eco-Bot Challenge.”

Why a science day? And, what’s the connection with 4-H?

“People who are not familiar with 4-H may not realize how much science is integrated into 4-H projects,” said Gerhard, a K-State Research and Extension 4-H youth development specialist

The kids don’t always realize it either, he said, because they are having fun while determining the nutritional value in pet food, analyzing food chemistry to make the perfect muffin, using global positioning systems to pinpoint livestock herds for homeland security, or building a robot that works.

And, that’s why the National 4-H Council has initiated – and is supporting – 4-H National Youth Science Day, Gerhard said.

The initiative was introduced in 2008 with a national experiment titled “Helpful Hydrogels,” which incorporated a familiar household item (a child’s diaper) to test absorption and polymers.

The 2009 experiment, called the “Biofuel Blast,” focused on alternative fuels, and the 2010 experiment, “4-H20,” focused on water quality and its connection with climate change.

In 2011, the national experiment was titled “Wired for Wind,” and encouraged students across the country to learn more about wind as renewable energy.

The 2012 experiment, dubbed “The Eco-Bot Challenge,” encourages youth to make a mini-robot with potential applications for environmental cleanups. Another potential application, a micro-bot capable of delivering chemotherapy to cancerous cells, could have life-saving implications, he said.  

The simulation begins with a small brush (the head of a manual toothbrush), and requires a 10 mm pager vibrating motor, foam-mounted double-sided tape, an LR 44 1.5 cm button cell watch battery, which powers a motor, and wiring, Gerhard said.

The intent is to introduce robotic concepts at the most basic level, said Gerhard, who noted that the 4-H robotics projects have evolved from its Space Tech program.

And, while rocketry remains a popular 4-H project with youth, Gerhard said more than 400,000 youth, in grades 4 to 12 nationally, are enrolled in 4-H robotics and engineering projects.

The simplicity of this year’s experiment makes it easy – and inexpensive, Gerhard said.

The experiment is aimed at middle school students, and does require adult supervision due to the use of the battery. It can be incorporated into classroom and afterschool activities, or 4-H meetings, Gerhard said.

More information about participating in the 2012 4-H National Science Day and The Eco-Bot Challenge is available at 4-H National Youth Science Day.

Visitors to the site will need to register to access free leaders’ guides; the experiment can be completed with materials purchased locally, and project kits also can be ordered.

Previous 4-H National Youth Science Day Projects information and instructions for the experiments also are available at the site.

The 2012 national science project was developed by The Ohio State University, Columbus, Ohio. The project development team for the annual national science project is selected through a competitive process sponsored by the National 4-H Council, which is headquartered in Chevy Chase, Md.

More information about Kansas 4-H and opportunities for youth is available at K-State Research and Extension Offices throughout the state, and online.


K-State Research and Extension is a short name for the Kansas State University Agricultural Experiment Station and Cooperative Extension Service, a program designed to generate and distribute useful knowledge for the well-being of Kansans. Supported by county, state, federal and private funds, the program has county Extension offices, experiment fields, area Extension offices and regional research centers statewide. Its headquarters is on the K-State campus, Manhattan.

Story by: Nancy Peterson
K-State Research & Extension News