4-H Robotics: Imagination and Engineering Experience for Idaho’s Youth

Photo courtesy of
Moscow Pullman Daily News

Shockwaves reverberated through the Weippe Public Library and Discovery Center on the Weippe Prairie last month. The Landsliders robotics team successfully completed their first mission thanks to help from the local veteran squad known as the Wildcats. Cheers filled the room, and according to Youth Librarian and FIRST Lego League (FLL) Dyan Spence, “You ought to have heard them when it happened!”

The cheers and sighs that accompany the highs and lows of the challenging FIRST LEGO League experience can be heard across the state this month as 160 robotics teams gear up for qualifying tournaments at four northern Idaho and five southern Idaho venues. Top scoring teams will compete in January at northern and southern Idaho championship tournaments in Twin Falls and Moscow.

In Washington County three FLL teams fired off questions to a group of natural disaster experts assembled by University of Idaho Extension Educator Montessa Young. Russel Qualls, State Climatologist; Kara Yedinak, a post-doc in the iFire Combustion lab; and Erika Rader, a PhD student in Volcanology at the University of Idaho tuned in via Skype to take questions and provide professional assistance to this group of budding scientists and engineers.

“Nature’s Fury” is this year’s FLL Challenge, an exciting and diverse topic as evidenced by this group of experts and the earth-shaking catalog of team names circulating around the state: Catching Fire from Idaho Falls, Quake Snakes from Boise, Thunder Heads from Twin Falls, Hawaiian Hurricanes from Kellogg, and the Tsunami Stoppers from Sandpoint, just to name a few.

Back in the think tank the Epic Lego Ninjas of Moscow are coming out of a valley. They just learned that their project idea, building a "Tsunami Shelter," has already been developed. According to Coach Eric Hewitt, “When I shared that their project idea had already been done by someone else, it was a serious downer.  They were about ready to give up.” Eric reminded them to see this as confirmation of a great idea, that their idea has real value. With this encouragement the Ninjas expanded their vision and now have their sights set not only on saving lives, but reducing the financial strain caused by these disasters as well.

Get ready Idaho for the mind storm of youth imagination and LEGO engineering coming to location near you! Find tournament dates and locations at: http://www.uidaho.edu/extension/4h/robotics/calendar.

Will Boyd, 4-H Science Extension Associate, University of Idaho

The University of Idaho Extension 4-H System is pleased to partner with FIRST to conduct the FLL Program throughout Idaho. For more information about Idaho FLL and Idaho ROKS (Robotics Opportunities for K12 Students), a program of UI Extension/4-H, visit http://www.uidaho.edu/extension/4h/robotics.