University of Connecticut University of UC Title Fallback Connecticut

Posts Tagged ‘STEM’

Windham County 4-H Providing New Opportunities for Young People

By Marc Cournoyer

eating strawberry

Photo: Amy Walker

Though traditional 4-H interest areas continue to thrive, additional audiences have been reached with the introduction of imaginative new programs.

The last year has seen continued expansion in the areas of STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) education with the success of the Saturday Science Club, a home school based STEM club in the Chaplin area, along with several afterschool and short-term special interest programs and events. 4-H continues to work with various com­munity partners such as home school families, EASTCONN, the Thompson Recreation Department, Killingly Public Library, and Griswold Youth & Family Services to name just a few. This year also saw a partnership between 4-H and the Windham Middle School.

4-H members are being challenged to think critically and innovatively in a host of areas. They learn concrete skills such as engineering, technology and math along with skills that help them navigate any area of life such as working in collaboration with others and creative problem solving. The three mission mandates of 4-H -Healthy Living, STEM Education and Citizenship/Leadership development – continue to serve as the foundation of everything 4-H does. Teaching tools such as LEGOs and iPads are being used in Windham County to enhance learning.

There is an entire population of young people in Windham County who are not looking for a traditional agricultural based 4-H experience but are still very hungry for a program that teaches them practical skills they can use in their everyday lives.

These new programs are helping to reach that audience with meaningful programming that is helping to equip them with skills to actively address the issues that face our world in the coming years.

4-H also continues to be an important outreach for those youth interested in more traditional program models. Here we have also seen a growth and expansion of our programs and club participation.

Together, these programs are reaching several hundred youth throughout Windham County.

For more information about 4-H in Windham County, contact 4-H Program Coordinator, Marc Cournoyer at: marc.cournoyer@uconn.edu

4-H Grows True Leaders

Article by Maryann Fusco-Rollins

Sean at fair

Photo: Maryann Fusco Rollins

Sean Murdock of Tolland was 8 years old, and out playing baseball that he first heard about 4-H. In between innings he and a teammate started talking about their hobbies, and interest in building with their hands. Sean enjoyed learning how things worked and took household items apart and rebuilt them. That day, Sean learned about a local 4-H small engine club called the Piston Pushers.

Sean went to observe a 4-H meeting at the barn of 4-H leader Mike Hoffman. There he met Mike Hoffman and Mark Kloter, co-leaders of the Piston Pushers 4-H club. The barn houses a workshop, and the club’s business and project meetings are held there. Sean joined the Piston Pushers 4-H club in 2010, and started learning how to safely and efficiently rebuild a tractor. He hoped to enter, and one day win, the UConn Tolland County 4-H Fair small engine and tractor pulling competitions.

At the 2016 Tolland County 4-H Fair, Sean won best of show for his tractor and placed third in the tractor-pulling contest, pulling 4,050 pounds. He also received a blue ribbon and best in show for a 3D printer he built and entered. Sean credits Mr. Hoffman with teaching him everything he knows about tractors and small engine design. “The 4-H logs and financial recordkeeping component taught me important organizational skills,” Sean says. But most important, Sean attributes gaining self-confidence in his abilities, to working with Mr. Kloter.

“Mr. Kloter always encourages me to take the next step,” Sean continues. “It was Mr. Kloter who encouraged me to join the 4-H Fair Board of Directors (Fairboard) in 2014. Mr. Kloter is a part of the Fairboard Advisory Committee and thought I would enjoy the experience.” Fairboard is made up 4-H members; ages 12-18, who plan all aspects of the annual 4-H Fair. Over 2,000 people attend the Tolland County 4-H Fair each year. With Mr. Kloter’s encouragement, Sean ran for and was recently voted in as an officer for 2017. It was also because of Mr. Kloter’s encouragement that Sean entered his 3D printer in the 2016 Tolland County 4-H Fair.

Sean built his 3D printer from a kit. He improved on the kit design and created a metal frame to replace the kit’s plywood frame, by sourcing his own parts, cutting a plywood frame, then updating the frame by sending out the design to a machine show to get it cut in a thicker cold roll steel. Sean taught himself the Computer Aided Design (CAD) programming. Mr. Kloter was very impressed with Sean’s work and wanted him to enter it in the fair along with his tractor. Sean was apprehensive about entering his 3D printer and speaking to the public about his work. Sean explained, “If it wasn’t for Mr. Kloter encouraging me to enter my 3D printer in the Fair, I wouldn’t have been able to take advantage of all the other opportunities that have happened.” Winning at the 4-H Fair was just the start of an impressive summer for Sean.

As Sean was preparing for the 2016 4-H Fair, his former teacher Celeste Estevez was attending the UConn Engineering Joule Fellows program. The Fellowship brings K-12 teachers from across Connecticut to the Storrs campus for a six-week summer engineering program. While attending, Ms. Estevez talked to Reza Amin, a graduate student with the Tasoglu Research Group, about Sean and how he helped the Tolland Middle School to get a 3D printer.

“I had been interested in having a printer for our school, but cost was a barrier,” Ms. Estevez says. “Also, there were no other printers in the district and no one with expertise on how to run or maintain them. I had been talking with Sean about 3D printing since he was in 6th grade and at the end of 7th grade I asked him if he would be willing to suggest a kit that he would then build for us. He agreed and then he presented the budget request to the PTO. At the meeting, he gave an overview of 3D printing, brought some of his models, and showed a video of his machine in action, demonstrating his knowledge of additive mechanics. After seeing and listening to Sean, the PTO voted unanimously to approve $1000 for all the parts for the kit, and 8 rolls of filament. I created the SPARK award in honor of Sean.” The annual award recognizes students who use their talents and do something that ‘sparks’ activity in and for the school.

The Tasoglu Research Group invited Sean to work on a project this past summer, and he built a chip microscopy holder. Mr. Amin said that Sean worked so well on his first assignment, that they asked him to join the team. The lab typically takes on promising undergraduate students and teaches them how to properly conduct research. “This is the first time we have asked a high school student to join us,” Mr. Amin says. Because of his experience in 4-H, when the Tasoglu Research Group spoke with Sean about joining their lab, he was ready.

Sean Murdock is presently in 9th grade. He is a member of the Piston Pushers 4-H club and Second Vice President of the 4-H Fairboard. He is working on an electromagnet design for the Tasoglu Research Group. He hopes to attend UConn and is interested in electro mechanical engineering and computer science.

4-H National Youth Science Day

STEM day projectEach fall, UConn 4-H members in every county across Connecticut participate in 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD), which is the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. The hands-on experiment incorporates science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Motion Commotion, the 2015 experiment, taught 4-H youth members about physics and speed, while addressing the serious public safety threat posed by texting while driving. By tying real life problems and their solutions to STEM, 4-H youth are engaged as problem solvers and gain hands-on experience in STEM, learn life skills needed to succeed today as well as career readiness for the future. State 4-H Program Leader Maryann Fusco-Rollins and Joy Erickson from UConn’s School of Engineering had collaborated on a science experiment proposal for NYSD making it to the semi-finals. This collaborative experiment, Helping Hands Transforming Lives, challenges young scientists to become biomedical engineers for the day and design an Articulated Hand Prosthetic. It has been featured at 4-H Science Saturdays and was featured at the Adventures in STEM workshop in November 2016. UConn Engineering students are mentors at Adventures in STEM.

A Foundation in 4-H

solar panels at 4-H fairSolomon “Sol” Boucher of Tolland exemplifies the 4-H motto of making the best better. Sol has taken the foundation in leadership and citizenship skills developed through the 4-H program to a global stage, impacting his community, and a wider audience.

In 2003, 10-year old Sol joined the Mighty Mix 4-H Club. Deb Couture and Felicia Johnson, his mother, served as co-leaders. Sol was elected president by his peers, and maintained the post through 2010.

The 4-H fair is a highlight of the year. Mighty Mix sold simple, historic toys such as Jacob’s ladders at the fair each year. In addition, Sol and his fellow club members set up and ran kids’ games, donating proceeds to the Tolland Soup Kitchen. Sol entered his photography in 4-H competitions, winning best of show at the State 4-H Photo and Art Contest in the junior division in 2005, and senior division in 2008.

Connecticut 4-H members hold demonstrations in the New England Center at the Eastern States Exposition, or Big E. The Mighty Mix attended for five years, the first two years demonstrating their wooden toys. Then, Sol had the idea to connect a camera, laptop, drawing program, and printer. Club members took photos of interested fairgoers, converted them to computer-drawn likenesses, and printed them in black and white. Attendees could color the drawings, or take home the black and white version; it was a big hit for the three remaining years club members ran their booth.

Sol served on the Tolland County 4-H Fairboard from 2006-2010. The annual advertising campaign is critical to the success of the 4-H Fair. Members raise funds by soliciting advertisements from local businesses for the 4-H Fairbook. In 2009 and 2010, Sol was the highest salesperson, and inspired other 4-H members to sell more ads, then passed down his list of willing donors. He had a broad view of the 4-H program, and tackled numerous challenges throughout his service on Fairboard.

“Sol was dismayed by the huge amount of garbage at the 4-H Fair, and the absence of recycling,” Felicia explains. In 2008, Sol and fellow 4-H Fairboard member Alix Moriarty formed a green committee, and Sol asked his father, UConn Extension Educator Jude Boucher, to serve as advisor.

“The green committee initiated buying recyclable tableware and cutlery for the snack bar, and purchasing recycling bins to be placed beside every garbage can. They included instructions about what could be recycled. At the end of the fair, Sol and Alix enlisted the Mighty Mix members and parents to sort through collected bags of recycling to separate out non-recyclables. It was a hot and dirty job, but they persevered,” Jude says.

The Green Committee held demonstrations about energy-saving strategies and products during the fair. Sol created a stand with illuminated LED, CFL, and incandescent bulbs connected to energy monitors that showed how much electricity each was using. He also had an outside table where fairgoers could play with toy solar cars.

Across Connecticut, people were talking about the green initiative at the Tolland County 4-H Fair. Sol and Alix gave an hour-long demonstration on living a green lifestyle at home, and steps one could take to make a local 4-H Fair green at the 2009 4-H Volunteer Conference, and again at the Association of Connecticut Fairs Convention in 2010. His peers recognized Sol with the 4-H Fair Exceptional Service Award in 2009.

Gifted in computer science, Sol was a member of the RAGE Robotics team in high school, and shared his knowledge with 4-H. He dedicated many hours each year setting up computers for entries at the Tolland County 4-H Fair. His robotics team brought their robot to the fair, and Sol arranged for an engineer to exhibit various solar inventions, and a Honda hybrid car modified to achieve over 100 miles per gallon.

He competed in Quinnipiac University High School Programming Competitions, and also volunteered to teach basic computer skills at the Tolland Senior Center. Sol graduated from Tolland High School as the salutatorian, and went on to Rochester Institute of Technology (RIT). The RIT computer science (C.S.) undergraduate program involves five years of study, including co-ops.

“Sol’s first co-op was as a research assistant for the RIT computer science department, writing code for robotic obstacle detection and avoidance,” Felicia says. Another co-op involved programming for a tech startup company in Rochester, New York, developing an encrypted “purse” for bit coins. “His subsequent co-ops were spent as a software engineering intern at Google, Inc., first based in Seattle, Washington during the summer of 2013, and later in Mountain View, California for the summer of 2014, and the spring of 2015.”

Sol studied in Croatia during the spring of 2013, was an honors freshman orientation mentor at RIT, a math tutor at the RIT Academic Support Center, and served as an executive board officer in various capacities for the RIT C.S. Community. He also participated in C.S. programming competitions as an undergraduate. During two school breaks, Sol was in Quebec, studying and improving his French language skills. Staying true to his green 4-H roots, he led an effort resulting in the addition of recycling bins to every dorm kitchen throughout the university.

Sol graduated from RIT ahead of schedule, and received numerous awards while there, including the RIT Presidential Scholarship, RIT Outstanding Undergraduate Scholar Award, and the Norman A. Miles Award for Academic Excellence. The Miles Award recognizes a student entering his or her last year of academic study with the highest GPA across the university.

In 2015, Sol began a 6-year Ph.D. program in C.S. at Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh, one of the nation’s top-ranked C.S. programs. Sol has helped a professor at Carnegie Mellon resurrect a Teacher’s Assistant Advisory Committee to support fellow graduate students that are also teaching. Showing his usual green outlook developed while in 4-H, Sol succeeded in getting the owners of his apartment complex to improve their recycling services. Sol demonstrates that youth who learn perseverance and develop self-confidence early in life can have a positive influence on the world around them wherever they go.

Auerfarm: Growing Opportunities

in gardenThe 120-acre 4-H Education Center at Auerfarm is a private, non-profit education center located in Bloomfield. Over 15,000 students and family members participate in year-round 4-H curriculum-based school science programs, animal clubs, and Junior Master Gardening projects annually.

Hartford entrepreneur and retailer Beatrice Fox Auerbach and her husband purchased the farm in 1925. Beatrice took control of the farm and managed it for 40 years when her husband died in 1927. Dairy, poultry, and apples were produced. At its peak, the farm was 230-acres, and honored in 1950 for its innovation and modern practices. The family of Beatrice Fox Auerbach deeded the farm to the Connecticut 4-H Development Fund in 1976.

A volunteer board of directors and staff run the farm’s day-to-day operations and educational components. The partnership with UConn Extension brings the research from UConn to real life for visiting groups. Educational programs encourage critical thinking and curiosity through hands-on discovery in science and agriculture. Volunteers from the 4-H program, Master Gardeners, and the community are a vital component of the farm.

“We are very passionate about the mission of the organization, which is to connect people, agriculture, and the natural environment through education and recreation,” says Chairman of the Board Bob Lyle. “At Auerfarm we have a wonderful 120-acre outdoor laboratory for learning, and we focus on bringing young people and their families out for fun, hands-on lessons in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

“Youth learn about nutrition, food production, plant, and animal life,” Bob continues. “It’s gratifying to observe how participants enthusiastically react and enjoy learning in this kind of living classroom. We offer educational opportunities that many would not otherwise have.”

Through their experiences at Auerfarm, youth connect to their food environment while building a foundation in STEM education. Auerfarm recently finished construction of a new animal barn, and over the course of the year, the farm has many different species including alpacas, sheep, beef cattle, goats, pigs, chickens, and rabbits.

“The 4-H club at the farm works with the animals to further their understanding of various STEM-based concepts such as nutrition and animal health,” Hartford County 4-H Extension Educator Jen Cushman explains. “In addition, various school-based, summer programs, and birthday parties integrate the animals into their learning experiences. For example, enrichment programs highlight the life-cycle connections between chickens and eggs, baby animals, and the role that alpacas and sheep play in the creation of yarn.”

The Master Gardener/Foodshare garden is a quarter acre vegetable garden used as a demonstration site for learning the basics of environmentally responsible vegetable and flower production. Students learn about growing conditions through understanding management of soil, water, insects, and diseases.

Opportunities to watch seasonal progression of plants, as well as observation of birds and wildlife are available in the garden. Master Gardeners work with approximately 300 volunteers throughout the season. Each year, volunteers harvest over 3,600 pounds of fresh produce for distribution to the community kitchens through Foodshare.

An anonymous $50,000 grant allowed the 4-H Farm to install a 20 x 48 polycarbonate rigid-walled greenhouse, which has space for in-ground and bench-top growing. Classes and demonstrations are held in the greenhouse.

“It’s a sunny and green oasis during the winter months,” Hartford County Master Gardener Coordinator Sarah Bailey mentions. “Spinach and herbs grow throughout the winter, and as the season shifts, more varieties are planted. While heated, we run it as a cold house with minimal non-solar heat in the winter, yet it stays warm enough for several cold-hardy plants.”

The greenhouse expands growing space available, and extends growing seasons, allowing for more educational programs. Master Gardener volunteers are growing more plants for the Foodshare production garden in the greenhouse.

Sarah is the Junior Master Gardener program statewide coordinator, and utilizes the greenhouse to teach students how plants grow, science experiments, and techniques for planting and harvesting. Teachers receive instruction at the greenhouse, and take hands-on curriculum back to their schools. Sarah is also developing a multi-generational Gardening with Families series.

“I look forward to engaging current UConn students in the activities of Auerfarm through internships and service learning to expand the connection between Auerfarm and UConn,” Jen concludes. “By tapping the expertise of UConn Extension specialists, I anticipate enhancing the agricultural production and practices that occur on the farm.”

Sugaring Manure

water boiling interns sugaring manure sugaring manure2 sugaring manure

Connecticut has more manure nutrients than we need for our crops. UConn Extension Educator Rich Meinert and two summer interns spent Friday “sugaring” manure. Just like maple growers sugar sap by boiling away the water we will be sugaring liquid dairy manure from a screw press separator to remove the water so that we can quantify the mass and more importantly the volume of the material that remains. In order to plan a meaningful strategy to move nutrients off of Connecticut farms and onto crops somewhere else, either in Connecticut or beyond, we need to know how much quantity we are talking about.

Hartford County Urban 4-H

jumping jacks  group stretching playing with Wii

The Hartford County Urban 4-H after school programs are free for children age 7-19. Youth enrolled in Urban 4-H receive effective hands on STEM related activities which include but not limited to: health and nutrition, science related activities, social skills, and work force readiness courses.

On May 26th at the Boys and Girls club in Hartford the group had our annual end of the year after school program wrap up celebration. On May 28th in Hartford at Thirman Milner School our wrap up celebration was held to conclude the 2015 afterschool program.

Learn more about the Hartford County Urban 4-H program by contacting LaShawn Christie-Francis at 860-570-9008 or lashawn.christie@uconn.edu

Litchfield County 4-H Programs

4-H members group shot

The Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association made up “Birthday Parties in a Bag” which are distributed to shelters and food kitchens. Every child wants a birthday party, and every child should be able to celebrate their birthday. They have been doing this community service project since 2012, when three 4-Hers went to a leadership Conference with Jann Carmody-Tanner at the National 4-H Center, and this was their project. Each bag contains party basics.

Litchfield 4-H members Litchfield 4-H STEM

The Litchfield County 4-H Fair Association also met earlier this month and did a Water Quality STEM activity led by Meg Tanner. The group had a great time.

Windham County Skill-A-Thon

 

By Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Program Coordinator

4-H program coordinator Maryann Fusco-Rollins helps 4-Hers construct scarf marionette puppets using plastic material, beads and string.

 16 4-H members from around Windham County gathered together on Saturday, April 12th to explore STEM through a series of exciting and fun experiential activities.  They participated in three workshops that were facilitated by UConn staff and students.

In the first workshop, 4-H program coordinator Maryann Fusco-Rollins taught participants how to make and operate a scarf marionette.

Members of the UConn Engineering Ambassadors lead 4-Hers in STEM demonstrations

In the second workshop, students from the UConn Engineering Ambassadors led participants through a series of STEM related demonstrations using various household materials such as corn starch and hydro polymers found in diapers.  They also showcased some things that could be done using liquid nitrogen, including freezing a raquetball and operating superconductor magnets along with exploring memory recognition metals.

In the final workshop, members of the UConn collegiate 4-H club led participants in a Jeopardy style game exploring 4-H related trivia called “Are You Smarter than a Collegiate 4-Her?” Kids were split into small teams and had buzzers to signal their readiness to answer questions.  The game show atmosphere was very contagious.

At the end of the event, participants were given the opportunity to share something they learned over the course of the morning that they did not know when they arrived.

 

Mackenzie and Bridget from the UConn collegiate 4-H club lead 4-H trivia challenge. Noelle, Shannon and Colton soak up water and food coloring using hydro polymers found in baby diapers.

UConn Extension 4-H Partners with UConn Engineering Ambassadors

By Marc Cournoyer, UConn Extension 4-H Program Coordinator

engineering1

Members of the UConn Engineering Ambassadors share the story of how they chose to study a career in STEM.

Two undergraduate students from the UConn Engineering Ambassadors stopped by the Extension Center in Brooklyn, CT on February 22nd to assist members of the Windham County 4-H Saturday Science club in exploring some of the science required to colonize Mars.

 Participants had an opportunity to create their own make shift filters to purify contaminated water, as well as, explore the science of propulsion through the creation and experimentation of small rockets which use water and sodium bicarbonate to create enough pressure to launch the capsule.

 Members of the club had the opportunity to experiment with various materials to see which would work best in achieving the desired goals.  As small groups presented their designs, members discussed what worked well and what could be adjusted to provide better results. Group members were able to revise their design and retest until they achieved the desired outcome.

 The two engineering ambassadors also spoke about their personal story that led to them becoming engineering students and choosing a STEM related career.

 The Windham County 4-H Saturday Science club meets monthly and focuses on a different STEM related topic each month.  In March they will focus on the science of sound, making musical instruments out of recycled materials.  In April, they will participate in the annual county 4-H STEM Skill-A-Thon.

engineering2

  Molly and Bella work on their water filtration system design.

engineering3

Club members prepare their capsules to be launched in the sodium bicarbonate rocket experiment.