More than just farm animals: WashCo 4-H clubs build robots
Most people don't know that 4-H isn't just a club for raising bunnies and livestock.
A 4-H club out of Banks High School instead works in robotics. Think "Battle Bots," not farm machinery.
They had their talents on display during the Washington County Fair this week.
"4-H is a positive youth engagement and development program," DeAnn Pope, Washington County's 4-H program director, explained. "People mostly think of the livestock auctions and the breeding, but nowadays, 4-H is growing, and it also includes things like archery and robotics."
Visitors to the Wingspan Event Center during the fair were able to see the robots in action.
The Banks teens explained the program, as well as what drew them to robotics.
For team captain Trevor George, he's been doing it since he was a little kid — first inspired by his older brother, who also did robotics.
Other team members got into robotics at younger ages, too. Most of them do so because they want to pursue careers that require intensive sciences, they say.
"I want to go into pediatric nursing, and there's a lot of robotics used in that field," said Theo Hicks. "My friends also got me to join. I figured it would be a good way to meet friends and have fun. And it was and is."
In general, the students want people to know that robotics is for everyone — whether you're into programming and engineering or marketing and fundraising.
"Pretty much, if you're someone who has a skill or wants to develop a skill, we have a job or you," George said.
Robotics seasons revolve around a specific task.
Teams across the country are given a challenge near the start of each school year. They learn what function their robot needs to be able to perform in competitions against other teams. While every robot performs the same task, teams get mostly free rein on how to design their robots to meet these goals.
This year, the task for the First Tech Challenge Robotics teams around the world was to build a robot that can take little blocks and put them into three-tiered towers.
Depending on the type of challenge at each competition, the goal might be to put more blocks in than the other team. Other times, a team might have to make sure their tower is balanced — even working alongside other teams to accomplish the goal, if need be.
While there are indeed winners at each competition, based on the total points scored, this collaborative quality speaks to the mantra of "gracious professionalism" that the First Tech Challenge aims for.
"It's a tenet of First Tech," George explained. "You can compete, but you should also cooperate."
The Banks High School 4-H Robotics Team is known as "Tacos In Kool Hats." The name was picked out by George and his friends when they founded it, when they were 8 years old — the initials of the name are also those of the original teammates — and it's stuck ever since.
The Tacos In Kool Hats team has already wrapped up its demos at the fair, but a new 4-H robotics team from Washington County will set up shop at the Wingspan for the next several days.
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