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ROBOTICS: Cameb Ames, left, and Sawyer Waldrep test their pre-programmed robot “Savage” at 4-H STEM camp

STEM camp has successful fun-filled first day

VALLEY — The small motor whirrs and the gears turn, propelling the small, pre-programmed craft forward into the makeshift course. The craft takes a precise left turn and handles the first corner fine, but then hits an abrupt stop as it takes its next turn too early.

“Looks like we need to add another second going forward,” said Connor Moseley, one of the programmers behind the craft’s programming. His team of three has been challenged with getting the craft, which they have named “Jarvis,” through a maze using their computer programming knowledge.

These were just some of the kids with a knack for computer programming and robot building as those interested in learning more about those concepts gathered in the Valley Community Center to try their hand at the 4-H robotics challenge Tuesday morning.

This was the first of three days that make up the inaugural 4-H STEM camp. 4-H is a national organization that gives young learners hands-on experience in areas like health, science, agriculture and citizenship. The four H’s stand for head, heart, hands and health.

This particular camp puts an emphasis on science, technology, engineering and mathematics — or, STEM. Using the LEGO Mindstorm program, the 13 kids who attended the robotics challenge got a further understanding of robots and how they work by either programming the robot’s path, or setting up ultrasonic sensors that tell it where to go.

“I’m hoping they get exposed to computer programming, maybe it launches an interest,” said Rachel Snoddy, the 4-H regional extension agent for Chambers County. “We are having more and more careers open in STEM fields. Also, a lot of 4-H groups want them to not only get experience with a variety of topic areas, but also to think about what they want to be when they grow up.”

4-H normally holds programs like these in schools, but thanks to a grant from Google, the Chambers County region of 4-H and many others like it are able to hold summer camps like these for the first time.

“This is a camp that anyone can be a part of,” Snoddy said. “This is the first year we have done a camp like this, but it’s been so popular it will be an annual thing now.”

The kids working on the robots stayed hard at work, making adjustments and using calculations to design the best path for their craft to take. When it was time to break for lunch, there was an air of satisfaction and excitement around the work completed.

“Hopefully some of these kids will end up in a computer programming field,” Snoddy said. “Robots are really popping up everywhere, from building cars and helping with surgeries, all kinds of things. They will definitely have interactions with them in the future.”