4-H introduces children to robotics, STEM programs
By Michaela Parker
MSU Extension Service
ARTESIA, Miss. -- Children’s faces lit up as they watched their bright-blue robots glide across the floor at their commands.
Nate Peterson, community development coordinator for Artesia, watched his 32 summer campers beam with excitement as they played with robots for the first time. Peterson worked alongside camp director Betty Sanders to coordinate sports, educational demonstrations and other activities for local children to enjoy while their parents were at work.
Peterson said he wanted the children to get excited about science, technology, engineering and mathematics programs and knew the 4-H robotics program was the perfect resource.
He contacted Mariah Morgan, an assistant professor with the Mississippi State University Extension Center for Technology Outreach, to help bring the robotics program to Artesia.
“With the MSU Extension Service, we love to share the resources and knowledge of the university with the people of Mississippi,” Morgan said. “Through opportunities like these, we showcase programming, coding and robotics so that these kids can get a head start on what Mississippi’s future will look like.”
Morgan guided the children through the process of programming Dash robots. Children also learned how to program their own video games, as well as generate electricity using a battery, aluminum foil and a lightbulb.
Using iPads, the children commanded their robots to move, flash lights and make sounds.
Cameron Brooks, 11, was one of the many children fascinated by the experience.
“I really liked doing this today,” Brooks said. “It was a lot of fun to play with the robots and learn how they work. I’ve never seen anything like this before.”
Like Brooks, many of the children at the camp discovered robotics, coding and algorithms for the first time through the program. He asked Morgan how he could code robots at home.
“I think this camp gave the kids the opportunity to see what’s out there. It also showed them they are capable of doing these things,” Morgan said. “They saw that they can learn new things even when they are not in school, and they can have a lot of fun doing it.”
As Morgan told the children, less than 8 percent of college students study computer science. Sharing STEM subjects with children at a young age increases the chances of them pursuing education in these fields.
“Technology is the next generation of innovation,” Peterson said. “I want to make sure these kids are involved with innovation and are learning how to properly use technology.”
Peterson worked with the Mississippi State University Extension Service as the community resource development coordinator and county agent in Sunflower County before moving to Artesia. He has more plans to incorporate the MSU Extension Service into his community development efforts.
“I want to see a 4-H club started here in Artesia,” he said. “I feel like that would give these kids the chance to experience to robotics and other different programs, and it would help strengthen our community.”