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New Mexico State University

New Mexico State University

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NMSU engineering and agriculture colleges team up for robotics class for 4-H students

You might expect that the 370 students who attended this year's State 4-H Conference benefited from sessions on horse and dairy judging, entomology and range management, among other agricultural-related topics. They did. And, some of them built robots.

A boy and a girl make adjustments to a small robot.
Caitlin Erramouspe, from Santa Teresa, and James Jennings, from El Paso, make adjustments on their autonomous robot before putting it to the final test. (NMSU photo by Linda Fresques)

The conference, hosted annually by the New Mexico State University College of Agricultural, Consumer and Environmental Sciences, was held July 8-11. For the first time, ACES has teamed up with the College of Engineering to help students experience something different that NMSU has to offer.

The workshop gave students the opportunity to work on a hands-on engineering project and learn about robotics, design and programming. Students built autonomous robots that competed in a task to pick up small balls. Engineering students employed by the Reduced Gravity and Biomechanics Laboratory assisted participants.

"There are three reasons we decided to offer this workshop," said 4-H Department Head Rick Richardson. "We wanted to get more STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) exposure in our 4-H curriculum. We want these students to see the other opportunities that NMSU has across campus. And, we want to build an alliance between ACES and the College of Engineering."

Richardson said he hopes to expand the program with similar offerings at the 4-H senior leadership and teen getaway camps in January.

The idea came about during discussions with College of Engineering Assistant Dean Patricia A. Sullivan following last year's conference.

"We are very excited to team up with 4-H to offer the robotics program," said Sullivan. "As a former 4-H member, I recognize the positive impact that 4-H has on the youth across our state. We hope to build on this partnership by expanding engineering program offerings beyond robotics to include renewable energy, structures and possible water resources."

Marisa Ronquillo from Chama wants to be a veterinarian, but previously had an interest in becoming a civil engineer. "I enjoyed working on the robot. It makes you think," she said.

Keleigh Hoffman is interested in engineering and participates in Math, Engineering, Science Achievement program at her high school in Ft. Morgan, Colo. "This session was fun?something new and different," she said.