Hero Image

Gearing up 4-H through robotics

The Issue

In 2008 the California 4-H program launched the 4-H Science, Engineering and Technology initiative (SET) to provide youth with non-formal learning opportunities to meet the challenges of pursuing careers in science and technical fields. Additionally, the program was designed to raise the level of scientific and technical literacy among youth participants by developing partnerships with experts in the fields of science, engineering and technology. However, Santa Cruz County 4-H members and adult volunteers were having a difficult time envisioning their connection to SET. As a result, the Santa Cruz County 4-H program was not engaged in the wide-variety of program and professional development opportunities being offered.

What Has ANR Done?

Identifying the passion and interests of 4-H youth and volunteers was the key to Santa Cruz County 4-H embracing the SET initiative, and that passion was robotics. When Santa Cruz County was invited to pilot test the new national 4-H Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum, youth and volunteers immediately answered the call. Santa Cruz County 4-H used the robotics curriculum to to increase participation and develop new partnerships. The program focused on four elements:
  1. Developing a robotics challenge where teams of youth from the community at large and 4-H designed a robot to perform various tasks, and then came together to test their models.
  2. Participating in robotics education programs.
  3. Adding a robotics educational track at summer camp and offering scholarships for non 4-H’ers to attend. In many ways this was the most successful component of the program as it used robotics to immerse youth into the culture and tradition of 4-H.
  4. Developing a robotics project in every 4-H club in the county and providing them with curriculum, project materials and education.

The Payoff

Robotics program leads to increased enrollment and new partnerships

Since the inception of the robotics program, Santa Cruz County 4-H has become fully engaged in the 4-H SET initiative and has realized impacts both locally as well as at the state and national levels. Locally, we have seen a 15 percent increase in youth participating in the 4-H program and the development of robotics projects in all Santa Cruz County 4-H clubs. The program has also led to the development of partnerships with local schools, Monterey Peninsula College and the Marine Advanced Technology Education center.


Supporting Unit: Santa Cruz County

Santa Cruz County
Lynn Schmitt-McQuitty, (831) 763-8026, lschmittmcquitty@ucdavis.edu