In a room inside the Brown County Extension Office on a recent late afternoon, Coggin Elementary School fifth-grade student Molly Dendy made a plea.
“Come on, Cucumber. Please, please, please. I believe in you.”
Molly’s words were addressed to a small robot Molly, and others on a 4H robotics team, had named Cucumber.
With the help of robotics coaches Keely Stubblefield and Amber Dendy, robotics team members put Cucumber and another robot whimsically named It Worked At Home through a series of trials on a board, moving objects to predetermined spots on the board.
Three separate 4H robotics teams with a total of 10 participants are preparing for two competitions in January. Team members use computers to program instructions into the robots, which are awarded points in competitions for completing tasks.
“We know it’s going toward this wall so we want to turn it just a touch,” Stubblefield said as Cucumber dutifully went about its tasks, completing some and fumbling at others.
“We’re trying to come up with a strategy,” Stubblefield explained. “If we see it do this, this is what we’re going to have to do.”
While some of the team members also participate in robotics programs through their schools, they like the experience the 4H robotics gives them.
Although 4H robotics teams have existed for the past four years in Brown County, people are surprised to learn 4H has a robotics program, team members said.
“People don’t really know about it because it’s small,” Molly said. “I told my friend about it and she said, ‘they have robotics?’”
Coggin Elementary fourth-grader Lyndi Biasiolli agreed, saying, “I told my math teacher and she said ‘there’s 4H robotics?’ She was pretty surprised.”
Stubblefield said after her son developed an interest in robotics, she and another mom approached 4H about starting robotics. “They said ‘that’s a fantastic idea,’” Stubblefield recalled.
“I’m at least tech savvy. Building was my son’s thing, so we made for a good partnership.”
When team members were asked what they like about robotics, Molly explained, “I like that you get to create your own thing and it’s kind of cool that you can technically tell it what to do.”
Lyndi added, “I don’t really know if there’s much of a specific thing. I just like it.”