4H Robotics program challenges local students


TORRINGTON – What does the rock band Alabama Shakes and the Goshen County 4H’s robotics program have in common? Both have a single female member, Brittany Howard and Tilly Fogle, respectively, who each brings a unique and indispensable talent to their team. For Fogle, a Southeast School fourth-grader, her intelligence, imagination and inquisitiveness keeps her on an equal footing when she works with or competes against boys her own age.
This is the second year for the 4H robotics program and Fogle has been a member both years, and hopes to see it through until her last year of 4H eligibility.
“We had more girls last year but I’m the only one this year,” Fogle explained. “But I like building stuff … a lot. When I found out the robots were built out of Legos I was really excited, because I love to build with Legos.”
Fogle’s mom, Amanda, completely supports her daughter’s involvement in the robotics program, though she is the only girl, and sees her daughter’s interest as inevitable.
“Tilly has always been interested in computers and that was a big part of it for her,” she said. “She gets really excited about having to actually program the robot to make it complete its tasks.”
There are 21 members of the robotics club, seven teams of three, ages eight to 17 years old. Every school in Goshen County is represented in the club.
“We have about the same number of kids this year as we had last,” said Megan Brittingham, 4-H Extension Educator in charge of the robotics program. “Last year we had four kids on a team, but lesson learned, four kids on a robot team is one kid too many.”
One reason they had so many on a team, Brittingham said, was because they only had four robot kits. This year she was able to add more kits and keep the teams from becoming
overcrowded.
“We had a little bit of interest in robotics when we first started talking about it, but it just exploded when we bought the four kits. But the kits are about
$1,000 apiece.
“This year we were able to get a grant from the recreation board and purchase three more kits. We don’t really have any more kids, but we do have
more robots.”
Every year the University of Wyoming Extension Service holds its annual Showcase Showdown, an opportunity for 4H members to explore various industries through contests and workshops. The Showdown takes place at UW over the course of three days, June 20 to 22, during which time kids can participate in contests, workshops, tours and activities. There are also two award ceremonies that recognize 4H members for their efforts.
Besides the team competitions in robotics, other Showdown competitions include,
• Cake Decorating
• Dog Skill-A-Thon
• Film Fest
• Food Cook-Off
• Hippology
• Horse Judging
• Livestock Skill-A-Thon
• Presentations (Prepared & Impromptu)
• Produce Evaluation
• Rocket Launch
• Table Setting Contest
The Wyoming 4-H Robot Contest robotics contest is modeled after the National Robotics Challenge, which began in 1986 as the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Robotic Technology and Engineering Challenge and is open to any 4-H member currently enrolled in the robotics project.
There are three different challenges in the robotics competition: robot construction, mini-sumo robot and mission challenge
“Last year was a big learning curve,” said Amanda, who will be at this year’s Showcase all three days. “But I always enjoy watching (the kids) use their imagination to figure things out on their own. And Tilly has a big imagination.”
Even with some of the equipment limitations the Goshen County robotics team faced during their rookie season last year, they still managed to represent themselves well in Laramie.
“We didn’t have any sumo participants last year, but each team walked out with an award,” Brittingham said. “Tilly won last year for
construction.
“One challenge our kids have is we don’t have a different robot for each challenge. Our kids have to keep reprogramming for each challenge. There are some teams that have a different robot for every challenge.”
Fogle, who loves working with Legos and robots, is keeping her options open, however, when she grows up. She either wants to be in a band or be a chef, and she’ll demonstrate her eclectic interests not only in the robotics competition at the Showcase Showdown, but also by competing in cake decorating and the cook off.
“I love to watch the cooking channels,” she said about her passion for cooking. “Or Spongebob Squarepants.”


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