This Wednesday, Oct. 8, Washoe County youth in 4-H will design and build an aerodynamic craft designed to deliver a payload of food to natural disaster victims as part of 4-H National Youth Science Day, the world's largest, youth-led science experiment. The activity, called "Rockets to the Rescue," will take place locally on the University of Nevada, Reno campus, in the Knowledge Center's Rotunda at 11 a.m.
The 12- to 18-year-old youth participating in the experiment will respond to a fictional scenario: A natural disaster has left people without food on a remote, isolated Pacific island, and the youth have been asked to build a rocket that can be launched from the mainland, travel over the ocean and deliver high-energy food to the population. The experiment combines two 4-H issue areas, science and food security, and incorporates aerospace engineering concepts to help youth design a rocket out of everyday materials, including recyclable two-liter bottles, cotton balls, pipe cleaners, rubber bands and a protractor.
University of Nevada Cooperative Extension Dean Mark Walker will be on hand to talk about his research using Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles (drones), as well as the University's programming in food safety, science and Unmanned Autonomous Vehicles. Washoe County 4-H Youth Program Coordinator Sarah Chvilicek will lead the youth through the experiment, and other 4-H youth and families will be on hand to observe. A special treat will be the Unmanned Autonomous Vehicle that Drone America, a Reno-based company and partner of Cooperative Extension, will bring to show the youth.
"This is an exciting and relevant activity," said Walker. "We're very involved in the food safety issue, as well as ways to use things like UAVs to transport food and help with other natural disaster situations, such as wildfires. Engaging youth in activities where they can see the usefulness of science gets them interested in science-related fields."
Chvilicek said that in Washoe County STEM-based education has been incorporated into all 4-H Programs - clubs, afterschool programs, camps, etc. - for the past seven years. Plus, there are several specific clubs and programs specifically targeting STEM.
"Research shows that when youth learn about science through activities outside of the normal classroom structure, they retain it better," said Sarah Chvilicek, Washoe County 4-H youth program coordinator. "We use the experiential learning method of 'do, reflect, apply,' and it works exceptionally well."
A recent longitudinal study conducted by Tufts University, The Positive Development of Youth: Comprehensive Findings from the 4-H Study of Positive Youth Development, revealed 4-H programming does indeed get young people more connected to science. According to the study, youth in 4-H are two times more likely to participate in science programs during out-of-school time (grades 10-12), and 4-H girls are two times more likely (grade 10) and nearly three times more likely (grade 12) to take part in science programs, compared to girls in other out-of-school time activities.
The national sponsors of 2014 4-H NYSD are Lockheed Martin, Hughes (HughesNet Satellite Internet) and John Deere. Other partners include Dow AgroSciences, NBC Learn, Afterschool Alliance, and NASA who have all collaborated on this event.
To find out more about 4-H or how your county is celebrating National 4-H Week and 4-H National Youth Science Day, contact your county's University of Nevada Cooperative Extension office.