Throughout the month of October, youth from across the country will apply their knowledge, creativity, and innovation in learning about STEM topics during the 13th annual 4-H STEM Challenge. Formerly known as 4-H National Youth Science Day, this year’s STEM Challenge, Mars Base Camp, will explore the theme of sending humans on a mission to Mars.
With this year’s launch of the NASA Perseverance Rover to Mars, the 4-H STEM Challenge will encourage young people to take an interest in STEM through fundamental concepts in space exploration and beyond. The National 4-H Council and Virginia Cooperative Extension, with support from Google, designed four unique hands-on activities to get kids and teens to explore computer science, space agriculture, and more.
“The Mars Base Camp theme is the perfect topic to engage young people and encourage them to explore a wide range of exciting subject areas related to STEM, in addition to the theme of outer space” said Erika Bonnett from Virginia Cooperative Extension. “Cooperative Extension and the nation’s land grant universities are perfectly positioned to develop researched backed curriculum and activities that help young people learn in creative ways. These activities inspire kids to get hands-on and think about the big problems that today’s top scientists and engineers are working on.”
To kick off this year’s 4-H STEM Challenge, Bill Nye (popularly known as the Science Guy), CEO of The Planetary Society, will serve as the 4-H STEM Challenge Ambassador, encouraging millions of young people across the U.S. to explore STEM and hands-on learning opportunities, no matter the circumstances they face.
“I’m working to get people, especially students, excited about science and engineering. Science is how we have come to know nature. It’s how we’ve built the amazing technology we have today, and it’s how we feed 7.7 billion people,” said Bill Nye. “This year’s STEM Challenge will expose young people to fundamental ideas in science in hopes of encouraging a lifetime of exploration. I’m delighted to partner with 4-H and inspire the next generation of STEM leaders and decision-makers who will ultimately shape our future.” Nye also had the opportunity to surprise four 4-H youth as the special guest host for a virtual Mars Base Camp Trivia Challenge. The 4-H youth, who are STEM leaders in their communities, were each awarded a $2,000 grant to support their 4-H Club’s STEM programming.
As young people, parents, and educators continue to look for new and creative ways to stay engaged during the COVID-19 pandemic, the 2020 4-H STEM Challenge has adapted to ensure that young people everywhere, regardless of internet connectivity or family resources, have access to STEM Challenge kits which includes online and offline activities.
Today, fifty-five million kids face a widening opportunity gap in America, hindering them from having equal access to reach their full potential. In addition, 12 million kids lack access to reliable broadband internet resources. Through the 4-H STEM Challenge, young people will gain invaluable access to STEM learning opportunities supporting the organization’s efforts to eliminate the opportunity gap and create better, brighter futures for all youth today.
“For more than a decade, we’ve engaged young people in STEM opportunities through our 4-H STEM Challenge initiative because early exposure and access can lead to a brighter future academically and professionally. Today, our efforts are even more important due to the continued impact of the pandemic, digital divide, and widening opportunity gap affecting young people,” said Jennifer Sirangelo, president and CEO, National 4‑H Council. “With the support of our partners, kids can continue gaining essential STEM skills despite these challenging times. We believe STEM education plays a critical role in preparing young people for future success and through the STEM Challenge young people are exposed to a new world of possibilities.”
Youth are invited to participate in the STEM Challenge, as well as other planned virtual events. For information about how to get involved, visit their website.
The 2020 4-H STEM Challenge was developed with support from Google and 4-H’s national partners, including Bayer, Toyota, and the U.S. Air Force.