ORANGEBURG — St. George Middle School student Brianna Smalls considered forfeiting when the robot she built and programmed with teammate Frank Rivers continuously crashed into an obstacle course wall.

“But in the end, I really wanted to do it. I really wanted to learn programming,” Smalls said.

And learn she did. She stuck with it and finished, one of 259 South Carolina youth aged 9 to 19 to compete in the South Carolina 4-H Engineering Challenge presented by EnlightenSC.

The statewide event utilizes students’ skills in science, technology, engineering and math, or STEM, in several fun and engaging competitions that promote teamwork, sportsmanship, perseverance and learning. In Smalls’ event, students assembled and programmed robots built with Legos to perform designated tasks.

In another event, students used craft sticks and glue to design and build bridges. The bridges were laid across a stand, and buckets were hung on the bottom of the bridges with zipties. Rocks were added to the buckets until the bridges collapsed. The team whose bridge withstood the most weight won the event.

Participants at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge build bridges with craft sticks and glue.

Participants at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge build bridges with craft sticks and glue.
Image Credit: Scott Miller/Clemson University

In other events, participants used GPS units to complete a scavenger hunt. They designed sustainable, energy-efficient homes with energy gardens and presented their models to an industry professional to judge. They launched egg-bearing rockets as high as possible with the hopes the eggs would parachute back to the ground unbroken. They built catapults to shoot marshmallows.

In another challenge, participants built small cranes from cardboard boxes, pencils, string, plastic cups and duct tape. Weights were added to the plastic cups as participants slowly cranked up the string with levers they designed. Cheers erupted when the string snapped on a crane built by 12-year-old Maggie Thomas and her teammates. The team was surprised with their second-place finish because teams of older students competed in the event.

“I’m very happy, I’m proud and I can’t wait to get my ribbon,” Thomas said.

After each competition, coaches discussed ways students could improve their projects. The event also included a “Maker Fair” with interactive exhibits and STEM presentations.

Representatives of Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College, which hosted the event, discussed academic programming available for students interested in STEM careers. Next year, industry professionals will speak to participants about STEM careers related to the skills used at the 4-H Engineering Challenge, said Katie Rishebarger, coordinator of 4-H Science on the Move, which organizes the event.

Students built and launched rockets with eggs nestled inside. The eggs had to parachute back to the ground intact.

Students built and launched rockets with eggs nestled inside. The eggs had to parachute back to the ground intact.
Image Credit: Scott Miller/Clemson University

“We really want to expose students to career opportunities that utilize the skills they learn at the 4-H Engineering Challenge,” she said. “From the surveys of last year’s participants, students are saying they are more likely to look at STEM careers and they have increased science-content knowledge and more confidence in their science skills from preparing for and participating in these challenges.”

South Carolina 4-H Science on the Move is a new statewide initiative through South Carolina 4-H and the Clemson University Cooperative Extension Service to advance STEM education by providing mobile science resources and activities to schools, home-school groups, after-school programs, community organizations and anyone working to enrich youth experiences. The program’s wide variety of educational resources gives students a unique, hands-on learning experience that aims to increase students’ interest in and exposure to STEM subjects and careers.

Participants watch their robot perform in the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.

Participants watch their robot perform in the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.
Image Credit: Scott Miller/Clemson University

EnlightenSC sponsored the event. EnlightenSC is an energy-education initiative developed by the state’s electric cooperatives. The EnlightenSC program and its corresponding website ― EnlightenSC.org ― provide South Carolina teachers with free training opportunities and the online classroom resources they need to incorporate energy lessons and excite students about STEM subjects. All EnlightenSC materials are aligned with state education standards.

“We are so pleased with the 4-H group and today’s South Carolina Engineering Challenge,” said Suzanne Nagy of EnlightenSC.. “Events like the Engineering Challenge give students the opportunity to learn how to think critically, speak publicly, and to better understand about STEM-related topics and careers, all while having fun. Students had a chance to research topics that are interesting and dive a bit more deeply into the content for better understanding.

“Our numbers increased this year to 259 students, and we were delighted to host all the families curious about STEM,” she said. “EnlightenSC believes strongly in education and in helping our members learn about energy problems and solutions and really inspiring young people to think about STEM-related activities so they can help solve the solutions of energy going forward.”

Here are the winners of the various events at the 2016 Engineering Challenge:

Participants pose for photos with their trophies at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.

Participants pose for photos with their trophies at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.
Image Credit: Scott Miller / Clemson University

Bridge Building Challenge
First Place
: Zion Riley, Robert Spradley (Orangeburg)
Second Place: Khadijah Smith, Angie Draney, Zak Bridges, Ethan Coppola (Charleston)
Third Place: Benjamin Gardner, Carson Anderson (Barnwell)

Egg Lofter Rocket Challenge
First Place
: Zoe Markford (Greenville)
Second Place: Clifton Still (Edisto)
Third Place: Paulina Rivers, Treyvon Dennis, Brandon Watts (Berkeley)

Energy Challenge

Participants receive trophies at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.

Participants receive trophies at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.
Image Credit: Scott Miller / Clemson University

First Place: Jane Taylor, Saniya Williams, Cady Simrill, Hailey Burrell (Lexington)
Second Place: Jenna Potvin, Eliza King (Aiken)
Third place: Robbie Prentice, Spencer Roskill (Charleston)

GPS Challenge
First Place
: Abby Threatt, Elizabeth Simpson, Grace Rine (Simpsonville)
Second place: Blake Scruggs, Taranjit Saggu, Jessa Beach (Spartanburg)
Third Place: William Roberts, Lily Roberts (St. George)

Participants celebrate their victories at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.

Participants celebrate their victories at the 2016 4-H Engineering Challenge.
Image Credit: Scott Miller / Clemson University

Mystery Challenge
First Place
: Tyqueashis Bridges, Joey McCray, Fredric McCray, Jontavius Loyd (Marlboro)
Second Place: Maggie Thomas, Clara Robinson, Nora Robinson, Marcie Thomas (St. George)
Third Place: Sabrina Cortes, Jasmine Hornsby, Haley Peterson, Taishawada Kenley (Lexington)

Robotics Challenge
First Place/ Performace Award: GREEN Charter Robo Owls (Aiden Eley, Sathvik Bodepudi, Kayley
Hudson, Kiara Moreno, Suma Ravi) (Greenville)
Second Place/ Teamwork Award: RoboFrenz
Third Place/ Innovation Award: LegoLegends (Corey Stagg, Ryne Longino, Camella Roberts, Kennedi Foter, Emily Mulalley, Patrick Edenton, Xander Polkowsky) (Lexington/Richland)

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