CROWN POINT | Family and friends filled the school gym to cheer for 20 teams competing in the first ever SuGO Robotics Competition in Northwest Indiana, held last month at St. Mary Catholic Community School. The 4-H robotics team at St. Mary’s hosted the event and invited young people from local schools and 4-H clubs to participate. No previous experience was needed.
"As the robotics industry rapidly expands across our country, it offers a unique array of opportunities to excite students in the classroom. I hope the excitement that robots create will inspire students to pursue technology-related fields," said St. Mary's teacher Heather Clarkson, leader of the 4-H club.
The St. Mary’s Cybercats Robotics 4-H Club was established in 2012 with funding from the Cargill 4-H Science Club program. The club currently has 21 members who meet after school to design, build, and program robots.
Youth leadership is a key component of 4-H youth development programs. Experienced club members serve as mentors for newcomers, and members have given demonstrations at other science clubs, the Museum of Science and Industry, and the Lake County Fair.
The club organized the SuGO Robotics Competition to introduce more young people to robotics. More than 40 youth in grades 3-8 throughout Lake and Porter counties attended.
St. Mary’s students coached participants as they used LEGO Mindstorms kits to construct robots. Teams then competed in a series of three-minute matches reminiscent of sumo wrestling, with robots struggling to push each other outside of a ring.
Members of the Crown Point High School RoboDogs robotics team and the Lake County 4-H Junior Leaders assisted and CPHS student Maxwell Jenks served as emcee. Plans are underway to host additional events.
“The kids in the robotics program are not only learning technology, they are developing life skills like communication, teamwork, and problem solving,” said Julie Jones, 4-H youth development extension educator in Lake County. “And they are having a lot of fun while they are doing it.”
The Cargill 4-H Science Club program creates clubs at elementary schools and other sites to excite students about science and technology and help prepare them for future careers. In addition to St. Mary’s, other area schools that have recently participated include Banneker Achievement Center, Longfellow Elementary School and Thea Bowman Leadership Academy.
For more information about 4-H programs in Lake County, call (219) 755-3240 or visit www.JoinIndiana4-H.org.