Heading into its 14th year, the National 4-H STEM Challenge is 4-H’s annual initiative to inspire students to take an interest in science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM). Each year, National 4-H Council chooses a topic — space exploration for 2021 — and coordinates with university and corporate partners to develop a fun, hands-on challenge activity.
This year, Clemson University was the land-grant institution selected to partner with the National 4-H Council to lead the design of the Challenge, a kit-based program packed with learning opportunities, which reaches more than 300,000 kids across all 50 states annually.
“Our goal is to give as many kids as possible that a-ha moment where they realize STEM can be exciting and approachable, and that they don’t need to be a genius or a math whiz to get involved,” State 4-H Youth Development Assistant Director Ashley Burns said.
Burns said the good news came via a call from Jennifer Sirengelo, National 4-H Council CEO, to announce that Clemson was the unanimous choice to be the design lead along with a $50,000 award.
“National 4-H Council received eight-strong proposals from land-grant universities across the country, making it challenging to select just one,” Burns said. “However, after an exhaustive review process conducted by representatives from Council, our team was selected as ideal partners for the 2021 STEM Challenge based on our ability to deliver activity concepts that are fun, easy to facilitate, and highly adaptable.”
Building off the success of last year’s Mars Base Camp theme, the 2021 challenge will cover many aspects of space exploration, such as the history of humans in space, the technology and resources that enable off-planet missions, and the obstacles humans encounter in orbit. Activities in development will touch on important STEM topics ranging from physics and engineering to computer science and space agriculture.
The members of Clemson’s 4-H STEM Challenge design team include Greenville County 4-H program coordinator, Patricia Whitener and activities were tested out by Greenville 4-H Robotix club members. Other members include Dr.Ashley Burns and S.C. 4-H agents Abigail Phillips, Meghan Barkley, Rosemary Martin-Jones, Dawn Stuckey, Terri Sumpter along with David Connick (Clemson faculty in Astronomy and Physics), Jeff Fellers (Clemson Extension Forestry and Natural Resources Agent), Katie Glenn (Clemson student and 4-H alumna) and 4-H’ers Jeremiah Gonzalez, Carson Marino, Daniel Marino, and Katie McCarter.
Patricia Whitener, 4-H Agent
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