robotics

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.