“When I was young, I remember hearing from a classmate, ‘STEM isn’t for girls,” recalls Ava Lonneman, 17, winner of this year’s 4-H Youth in Action Pillar Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. “But even from an early age, I knew that STEM was my passion. My goal is to help other young people – and especially other girls – realize that STEM is fun, and that success is within your reach. Through STEM and 4-H, I’ve seen an incredible improvement in the confidence, leadership skills and sense of community of the teen STEM leaders in my after-school Makers Club.”
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Annually held each autumn in culmination of a year-long learning project involving thousands of members, 4-H National Youth Science Day (NYSD) is the world’s largest youth-led science experiment. “For many kids, this experiential approach to learning ignites an interest in STEM topics that can quickly grow into a passion,” says Sirangelo. “Facilitating this progression – from interest to sustained passion – is what 4-H STEM is all about.”
The 2017 NYSD mass experiment was “Incredible Wearables,” in which participants were tasked to blend design principles with circuitry and sensors to create a wrist-worn personal health data monitor.
At first glance the project may not seem to be directly related to automotive innovations, but the learning it entails, combined with the vast presence of 4-H groups throughout the country, highlights the fertile recruiting field available for aftermarket businesses seeking employees equipped with the requisite skills needed to meet heightened knowledge levels.
This can be particularly helpful in reducing the trend of young people leaving rural regions and smaller towns in favor of migrating to large cities – a critical factor in obtaining quality workers, especially if your local operation is more apt to attract new employees from a place with a name like Sweetcorn Valley rather than Silicon Valley to fill positions requiring sophisticated technical skills.
In August, for example, chemical producer Bayer and 4-H announced a nationwide collaboration called Science Matters to underscore the value of learning STEM skills in a program expected to involve more than 25,000 4-H members. It aspires to “grow tomorrow’s innovators today and fill the critical pipeline of future STEM leaders – not only for agriculture, which is increasingly technologically driven, but for all STEM-related fields,” according to Ray Kerins, Bayer’s senior vice president of corporate affairs and a former 4-H’er himself.
“In 4-H, we believe in the power of young people, and we are thrilled to join with a company like Bayer that also sees the potential when you equip youth with the skills and opportunities they need to be true leaders,” says Artis Stevens, 4-H’s senior vice president and chief marketing officer. “Science Matters will extend the reach of our hands-on STEM programming, which is proven to grow 4-H’ers who are two times more likely than others to enter STEM careers.”
“With impact numbers that are second to none,” says Sirangelo, “4-H has been the best-kept secret for far too long.”
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