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News Release

More than Just Robotics: 4-H Program Provides Skills for Living

Many Teams Prepare for 4-H State Contest in May

ELGIN, Ill. – It was that kind of competition. The kind where you see competing teams laughing in the hallway or lending each other a hand. The kind where you hear a team politely let a judge know their score was too high. One where it isn’t strange to see giant wizard hats or young faces covered in Band-Aids.

More than 20 4-H teams of middle-school students demonstrated character along with technical and teamwork skills during the 4-H Robotics Showcase in Elgin on April 8. Each team designed and programmed robots to address the 2017 Illinois 4-H Health ‘Bot Challenge, which combined robotic tasks with a healthy living theme.

“These kids develop critical life skills, such as teamwork, sportsmanship, organization, communication, and problem solving,” said Donna Nuger, 4-H Youth Development Educator with University of Illinois Extension.  “This year, the youth also learned more about the healthy choices they can make in their own lives. And we always have lots of fun!”

Each year, Illinois 4-H creates a new robotics challenge and youth teams across the state answer with ingenuity and intelligence. Coaches and youth, alike, feel the growth in skills throughout the preparation process.

“There are so many [skills]!” said 4-H volunteer Anna Hartford, who leads #AWESOME 2.0 of Kendall County. “The most important skill I see developing, however, is their aptitude to be patient and enduring. Things rarely work the first time around and usually not the second or third times either. In a world of instant gratification, they have learned to celebrate the small victories and successes while continuing to work towards the bigger goal. Once they reach the bigger goal, they set a new, more challenging goal and then start working on it, piece by piece.”

Hartford’s daughter Audrey, 13, who was elected team captain by her peers on the 4-H team, added, “It's challenging, but in a good way because we have to work very hard to figure out solutions to problems we run into. We work together to find solutions while also getting to work on pieces individually. We have a lot of fun, and I like working on a team.”

This spring, in all, 50 teams participated at the regional level serving DuPage, Kane and Kendall Counties. The Elgin event was the second of the two showcases, with the first on March 18 in Downers Grove.

“The program grew in popularity over the last five years, and this year, we hosted two events to accommodate the dozens of teams,” said Nuger. “Every year, I am impressed with the creativity, programming, design and teamwork from these hard-working teams.”

In each robotics event, 4-H teams were evaluated in creativity, table performance, and technical categories with their Lego Mindstorm robots. The Health ‘Bot Challenge required teams to design robots and program them to perform tasks related to nutrition, exercise and other healthy choices.

“For example, a robot may sort nutritious foods into food groups, exercise by moving a ball around, or even climb into a bed to represent a good night’s sleep,” Nuger said.

Each successfully completed task earned points in the table event portion of the showcase, and during technical judging, the teams discuss their tasks and how they programmed the robot and built their performance field. Teams also were judged on a separate teamwork task that they were given at the event, and had to work together to solve it in front of judges.

Overall, #AWESOME 2.0 of Kendall County earned the Grand Champion spot. Team members include William Davis, Josh Grevens, Luke Grevens, Adam Hartford, Audrey Hartford, Elijah Hartford, Andrew Hill and Kole Hultgren.

Team got robot? FLL took home the Reserve Grand Champion honors. Members include Raymond Burrage, Emilia Cody, Andrew Garretson, Josiah Kee, and Evan Sass. The group is coached by Mark Burrage.

Additional Health ‘Bot honors went to teams from Kane and Kendall counties:

  • Rookie Award - The Bear Force, Abbott Middle School in Elgin
  • Team Spirit Award - Cybros, Kenyon Woods Middle School in South Elgin
  • Teamwork Award - Bandaids, Dundee Middle School in West Dundee
  • Most Creative Award - Radiation Storm, Kenyon Woods Middle School
  • Programming Award - Fox Formers Team Red of Kendall County
  • Engineering Design - Octospiders, Dundee Middle School
  • Best Table Performance - Fox Formers Team Black of Kendall County
  • Judges' Choice - Cardboard Crafters, Dundee Middle School

 Many teams also are registered for the Ninth Annual State 4-H Robotics Competition this May.

“Our local teams have now experienced a competition format and have received helpful feedback from qualified judges,” said Nuger. “In 4-H, the goal is to continue to learn, adjust and move forward. It’s not about how you finished, but where you end up.”

Robotics is just one part of the overall Illinois 4-H Youth Development program, and it draws 4-H’ers and teams through schools, youth groups, special interest clubs and even community clubs.

“From my experience these past two years, I see that 4-H approaches youth endeavors holistically –looking at all the pieces of learning and how people use their talents, intellect and creativity to solve problems,” said Hartford. “There's a place and a project for everyone in 4-H.”

No matter what the subject area, volunteers are critical to making the 4-H program work, said Nuger.

The 4-H regional event in Elgin was hosted by Abbott Middle School and was organized and run by adult volunteers and teen members of 4-H robotics team Blue Box Bots, which competes at the FIRST Tech Challenge level, with support from got robot?, a fellow 4-H and FTC team.

“It takes scores of volunteers to make the 4-H showcase events happen and a core of dedicated coaches to oversee teams throughout the year,” said Nuger. “We appreciate everyone who gives of their time and talents to make this program a success for hundreds of our local youth. We also extend our appreciation to all the participants, families and special guests. 4-H is truly a community.”

For more information on the 4-H program in your county, visit

For photographs from this event, visit


University of Illinois Extension provides educational programs and research-based information to help Illinois residents improve their quality of life, develop skills and solve problems. University of Illinois Extension provides equal opportunities in programs and employment.

Source: Donna Nuger, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development (Metro Communities),