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4-H develops Junk Drawer Robotics to teach youth science and engineering

The Issue

The prosperity of the United States relies upon our investment in educating and preparing future scientists and innovators to provide solutions to vexing environmental, economic, and social problems. Science, engineering, and technology rely upon one another and all have a vital role in ensuring the prosperity of our nation. However, engineering programs are still rare within K-12 school walls and in out-of-school time programs.

What Has ANR Done?

In 2001, the University of California 4-H began development of robotics activities as part of the workgroup on science, technology, and environmental literacy. These activities engaged youth, ages 10 through 13, in understanding scientific concepts and processes, the engineering design process cycle, and technology creation and building.

In 2010, National 4-H Council funded the University of California 4-H to develop one of three curricular components of this national robotics curriculum effort. Called Junk Drawer Robotics, the California curriculum was finalized and pilot tested in afterschool programs and 4-H clubs in Merced, Santa Cruz, and Kern Counties with 250 youth.

The activities provided experiences by working with household items to complete simple design challenges. Junk Drawer Robotics modules are designed around three phases – to learn (science), to do (engineering), and to make (technology). The activities were designed to be led by an adult or teen facilitator following the experiential learning cycle and promoting inquiry.

The Junk Drawer Robotics curriculum was published by the National 4-H Council and began distribution in June 2011. UC ANR has been able to implement the curriculum in 25 California counties by providing curriculum and starter sets, with funding from Lockheed Martin.

The Payoff

Extending science education with engineering and technology

In 2011, more than 150 4-H staff, volunteers, and teens throughout California had been trained at one or more six-hour workshops offered in different location in the state. In addition to dissemination in California, the curriculum is in use by 4-H programs and others across the nation.

Evaluation data has confirmed gains in content knowledge around engineering and robots. This was particularly evident around improved conceptual understanding of the engineering design process and engagement in a science-based educational program. In addition, for almost all modules, youth and adults agreed that youth learned science, engineering, and technology concepts.


Supporting Unit: California State 4-H Office

Richard Mahacek, Merced County Director and 4-H Youth Development Advisor, rlmahacek@ucdavis.edu
Steven Worker, California 4-H Science, Engineering, and Technology Coordinator, smworker@ucdavis.edu