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University of Illinois Extension serving Alexander, Johnson, Massac, Pulaski and Union Counties

Main Office (Johnson County)
P.O. Box 158
208 E. Main
Vienna, IL 62995
Phone: 618-658-5321
FAX: 618-658-2028

Branch Office (Massac County)
1438 W. 10th Street
Metropolis, IL 62960
Phone: 618-524-2270
FAX: 618-524-3948

Branch Office (Pulaski County)
502 Oakley Lane
Mounds, IL 62964
Phone: 618-745-6310
FAX: 618-745-6806

Branch Office (Union County)
515 E Vienna St., Suite G
PO Box 604
Anna, IL 62906
Phone: 618-833-6363
FAX: 618-833-6304

News Release

Century High School Ag Students Win National 4-H Science Award

Every October 4-H has a national science event where youth learn and demonstrate a science project. Last fall, Dena Wood, University of Illinois Extension 4-H program coordinator for Alexander, Pulaski and Union Counties contacted her 4-H leaders about the 4-H National Youth Science Day Challenge: to build a robot and create a containment area to help the robot clean up an environmental oil spill.

Brent Miller, one of Pulaski's 4-H volunteer leaders and an Ag teacher at Century High school jumped on this project for his class. Brent had a class of 30 high school students that worked in pairs and built the Eco-bots out of a toothbrush, battery, and motor.

The students designed boundaries for their Eco-bot areas out straws, cups, paper, and tape. They tested their designs and made changes. They learned what worked - what didn't work in keeping the Eco-bots upright and manipulating their movements.

Patti Faughn, 4-H youth development educator, University of Illinois Extension, AJMPU Unit, stated, "The students were so creative. One pair built a circular shield around their Eco-bot to assist it in bouncing off the straws and cups. Another pair purposely wore down their Eco-bot's battery to assist it to slowly clean more bird seed from the area."

After testing was completed, Brent discussed with the students if and how robots might be utilized to help with other community issues or environmental problems. One idea that arose from the students was grain bin safety. Southern Illinois is a farming area with grain bin storage and grain bin accidents – and one accident is too many. The students discussed how robots could be utilized by attaching an arm to the bin to make the task simpler and safer for farmers.

After discussion, the high school students were now ready to demonstrate their projects to others. Brent had talked with Melinda Duke, the elementary school principal about his students demonstrating the robots with one class of her students. Principal Duke said "No way, I want them to demonstrate to the entire school." The students demonstrated their projects to over 200 elementary students.

After this event ended, Faughn registered the event on the 4-H national website and applied for the national award. The questions were focused on 1) community issues, 2) careers in robotics, and 3) media promotion. Faughn said "The application to grain bin safety was a real strength."

When the 2012 4-H national winners were recently announced, the Military Airbase in Germany won for tying robots to careers, Tom Green County in Texas won for Media Promotion and Pulaski County in Illinois won for the Revolution of Responsibility Community Issues Award.

On January 25, 2012 Principle Leslie Varble, called the entire Century Middle-Senior High School faculty and youth together for an assembly. An award presentation was made by U of I Extension, AJMPU Unit, to Brent Miller and his students. Brent and his class received a 2012 NYSD (National Youth Science Day) Revolution of Responsibility trophy and poster to be displayed at their school. In addition, students each received individually framed certificates. Thank you Brent Miller and Century Ag students for making 4-H and Pulaski County proud! You competed nationally with every other county in the nation and won!

University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment. If you need a reasonable accommodation to participate in any of our programs, please contact your local county extension office.

Source: Patti Faughn, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development,