Nebraska youth to explore wearable tech in STEM challenge

(Back row, from left) Ebben Blake of Crete, Brandon McMiller of Omaha; (middle row, from left) Ilysah Blake of Crete, Grace Hessenthaler of Omaha; and (front row) Matthew Farritor of Lincoln participate in the Incredible Wearables engineering design challenge. Nebraska youth will join thousands of others around the world in the 10th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day challenge on Oct. 4.

September 26, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska youth will join thousands of others around the world in the 10th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day challenge from 3:30 to 4:45 p.m. Oct. 4. This year's challenge, Incredible Wearables, was designed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and introduces youth to the burgeoning field of wearable fitness trackers.

National Youth Science Day is the world's largest youth-led engineering design challenge, drawing nearly 100,000 participants in 2016. In addition to events in Nebraska, youth will participate at hundreds of events in all 50 states and in countries around the world. The National 4-H Council will host the national event in New York City. 

More than 100 Nebraska youth from across the state are expected to participate in the challenge.  

Incredible Wearables allows youth to work together to design, build and refine a wearable fitness tracker that is easy to use and aesthetically appealing. The challenge will teach youth a wide variety of skills related to engineering a wearable device, including building circuits, integrating sensors, designing a viable product and interpreting health data.

"Wearable technologies are a great space for youth in education because it really combines a lot of different areas," said Brad Barker, professor of Nebraska Extension 4-H Youth Development. "For instance, you have technology, you have computer programming, circuitry. But then also you have that aesthetic. It's really personal expression about the artifact that you are creating."

Nebraska's headquarters for the challenge is Innovation Studio at Nebraska Innovation Campus. The space is housed in the former 4-H building on what used to be State Fair Park and continues to be used for 4-H experiences related to engineering and design. About 15 youth will participate in the challenge at Innovation Studio. More than 10 sites from across the state, ranging from Albion to Oshkosh, will interact with the group via video conferencing. Other youth in 4-H clubs, school enrichment settings and after-school groups will complete the challenge throughout Nebraska. 

"What we know about activities and experiences like 4-H National Youth Science Day is that they can lead young people down a path they hadn't even thought about before,” said Kathleen Lodl, associate dean of Nebraska Extension and 4-H program administrator. "One of the strengths of the 4-H Program is its hands-on nature. We make sure that young people are really engaged in the learning process, so it's the learning-by-doing model, and though that makes common sense, it's not something we always do when we have learning experiences." 

All youth are invited to participate in the challenge. Additional information, including how to register, can be found at Engineering design challenge kits are for sale at Each kit comes with all the materials necessary for 10 youth to complete the challenge, including instruction booklets for both youth and adult facilitators.

Tracy Pracheil
Associate Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension

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