Youth across the state explore ‘wearable tech’ during STEM challenge

Twelve sites from across the state interacted with Nebraska’s headquarters for 4-H National Youth Science Day via video conferencing.

October 18, 2017

Lincoln, Neb. — Nebraska youth joined thousands of others around the world in the 10th annual 4-H National Youth Science Day on Oct. 4. This year's challenge, Incredible Wearables, was designed by the University of Nebraska-Lincoln and introduced youth to the burgeoning field of wearable technology. 

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

More than 100 Nebraska youth from across the state participated in the challenge. Nebraska’s headquarters for the challenge was Innovation Studio on Nebraska Innovation Campus. There, thirteen youth from Lincoln’s Belmont Community Learning Center worked together to design, build and refine a wearable fitness tracker. The goal of the event was to teach youth a wide variety of skills related to engineering a wearable device, including building circuits, integrating science, designing a viable product and interpreting health data. 

“The students from Belmont were thrilled with the opportunity to create something usable and functional," said Tracy Pracheil, associate extension educator. “That excitement and interest in STEM is really what 4-H National Youth Science Day is about.” 

During the challenge, the youth leaned about careers in wearable technology and design from Vishal Singh, founder of Quantified Ag, and Max Wheeler, instructuional design coordinator at Nebraska Innovation Studio. They encouraged the youth to embrace engineering as a tool to find solutions to challenging problems. 

Twelve sites from across Nebraska, ranging from Albion to Oshkosh, interacted with the group via video conferencing. Also joining the group virtually were challenge designers, Brad Barker, professor of Nebraska Extension 4-H Youth Development, and Extension Educator Dagen Valentine. Barker and Valentine were at the National 4-H Council’s event in New York City. They helped over 300 youth at that location build wearable fitness trackers. They also joined the event in Nebraska with a telepresence robot that moved around the room and talked to youth as they built their wearable devices.

For 10 years, 4-H National Youth Science Day has encouraged kids to unlock their passion for science, engineering thechnology and math, to ask the right questions, and to be innovators. 

In Nebraska, one in three age-eligible youth participates in 4-H, which is present in all 93 counties. These youth, ages 5-18, participate through camps, clubs, school enrichment and after-school programs. All 4-H programs place strong emphasis on life skills, such as problem solving, responsibility, citizenship and leadership. To learn more about Nebraska 4-H, visit

Tracy Pracheil
Associate Extension Educator
Nebraska Extension

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