robotics

Cubes in Space: UConn 4-H Robotics Program

Granby 4-H members in front of rocket launchUConn 4-H is the youth development program of UConn Extension. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including civic engagement and healthy living.

Using STEM concepts, 4-H members develop, design, and practice their robotic skills through various local, regional, and national programs. In addition, the 4-H’ers maintain engineering journals of their robot design process in order to develop and strengthen their record keeping skills. Participants also demonstrate and hone their public speaking and research skills through competitions and presentations.

Members implement the values of the 4-H motto to Make the Best Better by improving their robot after practice and competition sessions.

Eight youth from the Granby 4-H Club along with their leader, Rachael Manzer, a UConn 4-H volunteer, successfully launched three experiments into space on a NASA rocket in 2018. Manzer is the STEM coach at the Winchster Public Schools, and leads youth in three robotics project areas as part of the 4-H curriculum.

Cubes in SpaceTM is a global competition designed to help students ages 11-18 develop curiosity, and logical and methodical thought. Selected participants launch experiments into space annually at no cost to the participants. The program is managed by idoodledu inc., and collaborates with the NASA Goddard Space Flight Center’s Wallops Flight Facility, NASA Langley Research Center, and the Colorado Space Grant Consortium.

It took the Granby 4-Hers approximately four months to write their experimental proposals based on their interest, long hours of research, and thinking. These proposals were then submitted to Cubes in SpaceTM where experts reviewed all applications. After making it through the first round, 4-Hers answered questions, revised their proposals, and resubmitted them for a second review.

4-H members note that they have benefited from participating in the 4-H Robotics Program by gaining and enhancing their skills; for example, in the area of spatial geometry or in programming using the C language. Also, these experiences have provided opportunities for them to demonstrate and strengthen their teamwork and cooperation skills in preparation for their future education and careers.

Final decisions were made after months of waiting. All three Granby 4-H proposals were selected as part of the 80 experiments chosen from the 450 total proposals submitted by youth from the U.S. and international locations.

The three experiments from the Granby 4-H Club included “Bees in Space” where honeycombs were launched, “Rubber Bands in Space,” and “Gallium in Space,” all of which were proposed by the 4-Hers themselves.

Bees in Space

The “Bees in Space” experiment studied if honeycomb changes shape during flight. Club members took pieces of honeycomb from the club bee hive to design the experiment. The research question was: Will
the honeycomb change its shape during a flight to space?

When colonizing a planet, a constant food source is necessary. Bees are necessary for pollinating plants which creates food and oxygen. When bees were first sent to space in 2009, the bee eggs did not hatch and the bees died. The bees likely used all their energy on the hive. To help the bees

preserve their energy, the team sent up a honeycomb to eliminate the need to build one. This experiment looks at if the honey- comb shape is strong enough to withstand a flight on a rocket.

Rubber Bands in Space

The “Rubber Bands in Space” group evaluated how rubber bands are affected by a microgravity environment by creat- ing a rubber band ball. Rubber bands are used by astronauts as part of their exercise equipment. This team hypothesized that if the rubber band ball is exposed to a micro- gravity environment, then the rubber bands will change and no longer be as effective or work at all.

They believed the temperature on the rocket space flight would melt the elastics together slightly, cool back down, and cause them to dry. The team thought the rubber band ball may not bounce as high as it did before, and it may bounce at dif- ferent angles instead of just straight up and down, especially if it melts.

Gallium in Space

Gallium is a post transition metal. What is so unique about this metal is that it has a melting point of 29.77 degrees Celsius (85.586 F). Gallium doesn’t occur as pure Gallium in nature, but as a compound with other metals. These compounds are

often used as semi and superconductors. On its own, gallium is a semiconductor. Gallium’s most similar alloys are used in LEDs and diode lasers.

Gallium is a soft metal and might change shape due to motions during space flight. If gallium doesn’t change shape,
it may be one of the best conductors of electricity used in space. The team hypothesized that gallium would change shape during space flight, due to heat when exit- ing the atmosphere.

All participants of the 80 selected experiments were invited for the launch at NASA Wallops Center in Virginia where they presented their experiments to an audience of 300 people that included NASA and Cubes in SpaceTM officials, other participants, teachers, sponsors, and family members.

Members gained valuable experiences through participating in the Cubes in SpaceTM project. 4-Hers learned the importance of working together, how 4-H and STEM fit together, and learned the process of doing research. The experience provided the Granby 4-H members with the opportunity to practice problem solving skills, answer their own questions, embrace their curiosity, and gain valuable experience in the world of STEM.

Article by Jen Cushman

4-H Robotics Team Receives Creativity Award

In April, the Power Surge 4-H Robotics team from Fairfield County was in Maine for a FIRST Robotics Competition. Here is a recap of their competition:

4-H Power Surge Robotics team robot from Fairfield County climbing during a robotics competition.
The robot climbing during competition.

“Things went well in Maine, but we got knocked out in the quarterfinals on our third match for best two out of three.

We were scoring “Hatch” pieces well with a guaranteed climb in every match during qualifications, but we had tough losses by just a few points, and ended up 22 out of 31. However, our scoring and defensive ability was recognized enough to be selected to join a three team alliance to go to eliminations.

In the quarterfinals we had to play defense to shut down the scoring of the second ranked alliance, and got roughed up enough to damage our climber mechanism. With that damage, we just missed our second win to move on to semifinals.

The high honor of the competition was that we won the “Creativity” award for robot design. This really energized the team to not only be recognized for a unique and effective robot climbing design, but also the ability of the students to effectively communicate the strategy and design process to the judges.

The students incorporated the lessons of 4-H into their discussions with the judges and it was reflected in the announcement of the team as the winner of the Creativity award.

Looking back on where we came from, having no shop and equipment in December, this has really been a miracle season to get to where we are and be recognized with an award. We now have a great foundation to really develop the team further next year. We plan to have training classes for the students over the summer in electronics and programming to get a jump on more advanced control techniques for next year.

We will continue competing in post season competitions around New England in late spring and the fall, to give the younger students some competition driving experience. New students can learn from the seniors’ competition experience before they graduate.

Now that the serious competition is over we are concentrating on “catching up” on our 4-H commitment.  Members will be getting their binders up to date etc.

Thank you again to the UConn 4-H – Fairfield County program for all your support. Below are a couple of links that FIRST posted on their sites (Twitter and Instagram) because our design was so unique.”

Dan Biron, Volunteer Leader

Power Surge 4-H Robotics

https://twitter.com/FRCTeams/status/1114295538701209600?s=03

https://www.instagram.com/p/BwDb5JogDH8/?utm_source=ig_share_sheet&igshid=4v8av22r4hg8

4-H First Robotics Experience

By Alexis Nadeau, Alyssa Newell, Emmit Starkweather

Robotics team after winning competition
Team 3555 receiving the first place award at the 2018 Bay State Brawl competition.

Innovation is a modernly essential pillar to human development and growth into the future. It is this innovative thinking that the organization For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology or FIRST seeks to harness within adolescents and young adults. Focusing on the fields of STEM — science, technology, engineering, and mathematics –FIRST wishes to fuel interests in the younger generations.

State of the art organizations such as the First Robotics Program help to assist students in grades 9-12 with learning the difficult but necessary skills that shall be required to continue the technological growth and innovation which our era depends. Some of the careers that require these skills are mechanical design, electrical engineering, software engineering, and manufacturing. Certain teams in the first robotics program, such as ours (Team 3555) are 4-H clubs.

“My experience on the 4-H First Robotics Team has provided me with access to more knowledge than I was able to acquire previously, and has introduced me to better overall materials than I would have access to otherwise,” club member Nick Mercado said.

The way the club works is that students are allotted a time known as a build season, where each team is given six weeks to build a robot that will be used to compete in various competitions across that state. Each branch of our team does different tasks and works together with the other parts of the team in order to build a robot in a fast and efficient way. For example, the mechanical design people work on the technical sketches of the different components of the robot, while the electrical engineering people work on the wiring and the electrical boards.

While these two branches do very different things, they have to cooperate to make sure that all of the electrical components will be able to fit and work on the mechanical parts. Likewise, people operating in the software engineering branch have to program the robot so that it moves, which requires significant communication with people in the electrical and design branch. This is because the programmers need to know the electronic components that will be used in order to program them correctly, and they need to know the design of the robot, so that it is programmed in a way that allows it to move smoothly and effectively.

After the six weeks, our robot is taken out to various competitions around the state where it competes with other teams in doing certain tasks, such as lifting up boxes and putting them on levers, climbing up walls, or shooting balls at specific targets. The adrenaline rush that is experienced is wild, as the arena is constantly filled with the passion and excitement that is elicited by the thrill that comes with having the crowd at the competitions.

“Both optimists and pessimists have a place in the world. The optimist will build the robot, and the pessimists will bring the safety bucket,” club member Sam Secondo said about the challenge.

The competitions offer many new learning experiences for those who join the 4-H First Robotics Team. Students work under stress, cooperate with other teams, manage safety, show leadership, act graciously, show professionalism, demonstrate quick thinking, and take quick action, all of which are unquestionably valued by the 4-H program. Last year, the team had performed in two out off-season events: Bay State Brawl and the Where Is Wolcott.

“Without the 4-H First robotics program, I wouldn’t know even half of the information about engineering and mechanical design that I currently know,” said club member Alexis Nadeau.

Many people in today’s era strive to learn the new skills that drive the engineering world, and the 4-H First Robotics Program gives students the opportunity to be part of a team that teaches the fundamentals of engineering.

4-H Volunteer Attends White House STEM Summit

Rachael Manzer

RACHAEL MANZER JOINED LANDMARK GATHERING OF STATE & FEDERAL STEM EDUCATION LEADERS AT THE WHITE HOUSE

WHITE HOUSE SUMMIT WILL HELP INFORM NEXT 5-YEAR STEM EDUCATION STRATEGY

Rachael Manzer, STEM Coach at Winchester Public Schools and a UConn 4-H Leader was recently invited to attend the first-of-its-kind State-Federal Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) Education Summit hosted by The White House Office of Science and Technology Policy (OSTP) on June 25-26, 2018, in Washington, D.C.

Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator says “We are fortunate to have a UConn 4-H Volunteer in attendance to share the STEM experiences UConn 4-H Youth are engaging in.”

According to the OSTP, the State-Federal STEM Education Summit convened a diverse group of State STEM leaders, including officials from governors’ offices, K-20 educators, workforce and industry representatives, State policy experts, and non-government organization executives. These attendees participated in the development of a new Federal 5-Year STEM Education Strategic Plan in compliance with America COMPETES Act of 2010.

“This event is the first time an administration has asked for this level of State input when developing a Federal STEM education strategy,” said Jeff Weld, senior policy advisor and assistant director for STEM education at OSTP. “Top-down approaches to STEM education can often yield wonderful ideas, but it’s at the State and community level where the momentum happens. State leaders know best what kinds of programs will work in their communities, and where they need the power of the Federal government to help drive success in this field. STEM education is critical to preparing our students for the jobs of the future. We must do everything we can to ensure that Federal, State, local, and tribal governments, communities, educators, and private industry partners are united for the long-term success of our Nation.”

Alongside OSTP in planning and carrying out this Summit are the National Science Foundation, the U.S. Department of Education, the U.S. Department of Labor, and the Smithsonian Institution. STEM leaders from all 50 states, as well as U.S. territories and tribes, will attend the Summit to illuminate and advance State-Federal STEM alignment.

In 1976, Congress established OSTP to provide the President and others within the Executive Office of the President with advice on the scientific, engineering, and technological aspects of the economy, national security, homeland security, health, foreign relations, the environment, and the technological recovery and use of resources, among other topics. OSTP also leads interagency science and technology policy coordination efforts, assists the Office of Management and Budget with an annual review and analysis of Federal research and development in budgets, and serves as a source of scientific and technological analysis and judgment for the President with respect to major policies, plans, and programs of the Federal Government.

Rachael Manzer is a 4-H Leader in Connecticut. She leads three different projects groups: VEX Middle School Robotic Competition Team, who won the Connecticut State Robotic Championship and competed in the World Championship; a VEX Robotic Project Group, who designs and builds robots to compete at the Hartford County 4-H Fair; and a 4-H Cubes in Space Group who had three experiments fly in space on a NASA Sounding Rocket on June 21, 2018.  Rachael Manzer is passionate about 4-H and STEM Education.

UConn 4-H Members Win State VEX Competition and Head to World VEX Competition

Written By: Jen Cushman, Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator

Youth work with mentor to test programming and make adjustments.
Youth work with mentor to test programming and make adjustments.

Six youth from the Granby 4-H Club won the State VEX Robotics competition and qualified to represent CT at the VEX Robotics World Championship, April 29-May 1st, in Louisville, KY.

At Worlds, the youth will compete in teamwork, programming and driving competitions. In addition, they are eligible for team awards for energy, journal, design and research project. Throughout the competition, these youth will also network with teams from around the world as they promote 4-H through their team booth.

Since May of 2017, the youth have been learning about this year’s Ring Master Challenge in preparation for the build season. Using science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) concepts, competition team members developed, designed, and practiced their robot driving skills. In addition, the 4-H’ers maintain an engineering journal of their robot design process in order to develop and strengthen their record keeping skills. Participants also demonstrate and hone their public speaking and research skills through the annual STEM Research Project which is also component of the competition.

Supported by six 4-H volunteer mentors and parents, this group of 4-H youth competed as the only 4-H team in Connecticut. While 4-H volunteer mentors are there to guide and facilitate the youth, 4-Hers do all the design and construction work. Each member of the team is assigned a leadership role in a specific area. Team members meet 1-2 times per week for 8 months of the year and then 2 to 6 times a week as the competition gets closer. Along with the leadership, STEM, teamwork, communication, citizenship and life skills that the youth gain they also develop entrepreneurial skills designing and running fundraisers to cover the expenses of the robot and competition fees.

Members implement the values of the 4-H motto to Make the Best Better by improving their robot after practice and competition sessions. 4-H members note that they

Granby 4-H youth member working on robotics
Granby 4-H youth member working on robotics

have benefited from participating in the VEX 4-H Robotics Program by gaining and enhancing their skills; for example, in the area of spatial geometry or in programming their robot using the C language. Also, these experiences have provided opportunities for them to demonstrate and strengthen their teamwork and cooperation skills in preparation for their future education and careers. In fact, during the qualification rounds at the State Competition, the team was twice awarded the Judges Award for Spirit and Energy at the Regional Level and they were the Teamwork Challenge winners on the state level. The competition members also serve as mentors to the non-competition 4-H VEX Robotics group members. Lastly, members see their experiences in VEX 4-H Robotics helping them to identify future career opportunities. Beyond the VEX Robot competition, this project group of the Granby 4-H Club also attends UConn STEM events, participates in community service activities as well as county-level activities including the annual Hartford County 4-H Fair.

UConn 4-H is the youth development program of the UConn Extension in the College of Agriculture, Health and Natural Resources. 4-H is a community of over 6 million young people across America who are learning Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM), leadership, citizenship and life skills through their 4-H project work. 4-H provides youth with the opportunity to develop lifelong skills including citizenship and healthy living. To find a 4-H club near you visit 4-H.UConn.edu or call 860-486-4127.

Robots in the Greenhouse

robots in CK Greenhouse
Photo: Leanne Pundt

CK Greenhouses in Cheshire gave a short demonstration of their robots, which are used to space their plants in both their greenhouses and outdoor mum fields. Here you can see them moving the pots from a pot to pot spacing to a final spacing.   They have a rechargeable battery so can work for 12 hours and use the reflective tape to orient themselves. The grower said that they were relatively easy to program and are a great labor saving tool. Watch the video to see the robots in action.

Meet German Cutz

German Cutz
German Cutz

Dr. German Cutz is an Associate Extension Educator for Sustainable Families and Communities with a statewide appointment for UConn Extension. Dr. Cutz develops, conducts, and evaluates Extension outreach education programs. He is fully bilingual (English and Spanish) with more than 20 years experience working in community development in both developing and developed countries. In addition, he has 15 years of Extension experience in the United States. Dr. Cutz’s work focuses on marginalized and at-risk populations including low-income families in both urban and rural communities, small farmers, women, youth, and children at risk.

Dr. Cutz is currently teaching urban agriculture, technology, and small business management. Since 2013, he is teaching urban agriculture focusing on botany, entomology, vegetable production, integrated pest management, plant pathology, soils, farm risk-management, and entrepreneurship. He started teaching urban agriculture in Danbury, Connecticut and plans to expand his efforts to other urban cities throughout the state.

Since 2011, Dr. Cutz is teaching the program Youth Internet Masters. This is a three level Webpage design program that teaches computer languages including HTML, CSS, and JavaScript. More than 100 people have completed the program. In addition, he teaches the 4-H Robotics and Technology program. This program targets 10-12 and 13-15 years old teens. Using a teamwork approach teens learn to build and program robots. It is usually offered as an after school program in collaboration with local schools.

In 2014, Dr. Cutz started a pilot small business management program. This program includes topics like how to start a business, business planning, marketing, introduction to accounting, and human resources management. The program is under review and he plans to offer it again in Spring 2016.

Dr. Cutz holds a doctoral degree in adult and community education; two master‘s degrees; one in natural resources and environmental management and another in community education and participatory educational methods; bachelor‘s degrees in business administration/management and agronomy.

In July, Dr. Cutz was appointed as the new UConn Extension Family and Community Development’s team leader. This team involves more than 20 UConn Extension faculty and staff. The team focuses on three major areas of action: Health and Wellness, Healthy Homes, and Sustainable Families and Communities. The goals of this team are: 1) to provide access to healthy foods and support systems to help diverse individuals and families to improve their wellbeing. 2) Improve the public’s health, reduce health disparities, and to foster a healthy and safe home environment. 3) Improve leadership skills, workforce readiness and increase community involvement.

4-H Recognition

robotics_pic1

Connecticut State Representative Dan Carter was our special guest at the Robotics and Technology recognition night. Two groups of children and youth from Danbury completed a 10-week pilot program. Participants built and programmed robots using laptops and artificial intelligence bricks. Before this program none of the participants was a 4-H member. At the end of the program nearly 30 children and youth became new UConn Extension 4-Hers.