Youth explore STEM fields during Nebraska 4-H summer camp

4-H Robotics

July 26, 2016

Lincoln, Neb. — A new activity is joining baseball, swimming and bike riding on the list of favorite summer pastimes thanks to Nebraska 4-H. Twenty-two area middle-school students recently participated in a Nebraska 4-H summer camp where they learned how to design and build their own robot.

The summer robotics programming implemented by Nebraska 4-H encourages the learning of basic science concepts related to robotics and applying scientific inquiry and engineering design. The hands-on approach to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) is gaining popularity with youth in the state.

“Youth at the camp were very engaged,” said Nebraska 4-H Science and Technology Specialist Bradley Barker. “They started with very little engineering knowledge but pushed themselves throughout the camp, and by the end of the session their robots were completing challenges.”   

The camp was co-taught by UNL Engineering Students and faculty from Nebraska 4-H.

During the camp, participants learned teamwork, problem solving, critical thinking, engineering and design. The group was divided into teams, and each team had a few days to work on the design and construction of their custom robot. The camp culminated with the robots competing in a number of challenges.

Robotics has not always been a featured STEM activity for 4-H. While 4-H has placed an emphasis on STEM activities to build excitement for engineering and technology for many years, traditionally this has meant focusing on agricultural science topics such as veterinary science, biotechnology, raising and training animals and forestry. In response to the growing impact of technology on everyday life, 4-H has added activities in robotics, rocketry, computer science and electrical engineering.

With a larger offering of STEM fields available, it’s important to capitalize out-of-school time with youth.

“If youth have an interest in a specific STEM area, having the opportunity to explore the knowledge that they have learned in school can be very powerful,” said Barker. “Activities during the summer months allow us to do a deep dive into subject areas they’ve learned about in school.”

Robotics activities are available for youth ages 8-18. In addition to summer camps, Nebraska 4-H also organizes FIRST Robotics programs. FIRST is a not-for-profit organization devoted to helping young people discover and develop a passion for STEM. The annual programs culminate in an international robotics competition and celebration.

For more information on robotics activities offered through Nebraska 4-H, contact Barker at or visit

Bradley Barker
Nebraska 4-H