During the spring 2023 school semester, UNR Extension Clark County 4-H partnered with Clark County Parks and Recreation to pilot a 4-H Afterschool Robotics program. We worked with six elementary schools at five afterschool Safekey sites, trained nine Safekey staff leaders, and taught one hundred seventy-one students from grades K-5 for a total of twenty-eight contact hours at each site. Safekey staff leaders attended three 4-H robotics training sessions for a total of six hours from January to April where they were introduced to 4-H and given an orientation on Positive Youth Development, the 4-H Thriving Model, and the 4-H Experiential Learning Model. They were also enrolled as 4-H volunteers. Each training session, 4-H professionals taught four to five lessons of the curriculum, and Safekey staff taught it weekly at their afterschool site. The curriculum involved: principles of engineering, mechanics, electrical circuitry, and robotics programming.

Program Overview

The 4-H Afterschool Safekey Robotics Program started the week of January 16, 2023 and ended the week of May 1, 2023. The program was piloted at the following schools: Liliam Lujan Hickey Elementary School, Helen Herr Elementary School, Zel & Mary Lowman Elementary School, J.E. Manch Elementary School, Martin Luther King Junior Elementary School, and Mountain View Elementary School. The students had robotics classes once a week for two to three hours, depending on when they were picked up by their parents. Every week, the students had a new model to build that added complexity and technique to the model of the previous week. We focused on experiential learning by giving the students a brief description of the engineering or robotics principle they needed to know to create their robot that day, and then supported them as they assembled the models by following schematic diagrams of the step-by-step process for construction. Students worked in pairs to create their robots, which introduced components of the 4-H Thriving Model and life skills, such as: goal setting, engagement, contribution, and openness to challenge and discovery.

Each Safekey site was given the required amount of robotics kits to supply every two students with enough materials to create over thirty different models. The kits came with digital diagrams of each model, which 4-H printed out and gave to each site to ensure every student had access to the model they wanted to create that week. The kit is named EQ-ROBO1. It came with a mock study plan that outlined the different subjects that each week should cover to ensure a successful build. The curriculum starts with topics such as “What is a robot?”, “Simple Machine Foundations: Center of Gravity, Leverage Principles, Friction and Power Transmission”, and “Elastic Power”, wherein students built models of windmills, airplanes, seesaws, catapults, and rubber band powered cars. After learning the basic principles of simple machines and energy transmission, the curriculum adds electronic foundations by introducing battery-powered models that move using motors and infrared light sensors. Topics of this section include: “Machine Foundations: Gear, Motors, and Crank”, “Electronic Foundations: Brain of a Robot”, and “Electronic Foundations II: Infrared Ray and Photo Sensor”. The last section of classes focused on programming and allowed students to create models that they programmed to use with a remote control. These models encouraged competitions and challenges such as racing their remote-controlled car and battling with their soccer robot. The topics of this section include “Electronic Foundations III: Remote Controller”, “Obstacle Avoiding Robot”, and “Understanding Conductors, Insulators and Semiconductors”.

4-H staff helped the Safekey staff in piloting this curriculum by attending classes monthly and having one-on-one time with the kids as they assembled their models. The program encouraged kids of all ages and technical skills to learn more about robotics, engineering, and building.

This program will continue at four new afterschool Safekey sites starting in the 2023 fall semester. These sites are Gwendolyn Woolley Elementary School, Clyde C Cox Elementary School, Jay W. Jeffers Elementary School, and Myrtle Tate Elementary School. The schools that participated in our pilot of the 4-H Safekey Afterschool Robotics program will continue with eight weeks of 4-H programming this fall as we introduce the 4-H Arts Kit Curriculum.

Program Evaluation

We used a paper sign-in sheet for attendance logs to track the number of participants. Demographic data, including ethnicity, age, gender, and zip code, were documented. We assessed social and emotional skills, using the 4-H Thriving Model (Arnold, 2018) as a framework (Graph 1). The 4-H Thriving Model demonstrates how the 4-H program achieves its developmental outcomes (Arnold & Gagnon, 2019). Based on impacting indicators of thriving, it is expected that youth will have the following outcomes: positive academic attitude, social competence, personal standards, connection with others, personal responsibility, and contribution. The indicators of thriving are as follows:

  1. growth mindset, 
  2. openness to challenges and discovery, 
  3. hopeful purpose, 
  4. prosocial orientation, 
  5. transcendent awareness, 
  6. positive emotions, and 
  7. goal setting and management. 

The evaluation will answer whether these thriving indicators were impacted by the program.

The evaluation instrument is adapted from the Mediating Effects of Thriving on Youth Development studies (Arnold, & Gagnon, 2019). The 4-H Thriving Model uses surveys to assess outcomes. The survey instrument was administered to youth ages 7 and above before and after the program. The instrument measures seven indicators of thriving: (1) growth mindset; (2) openness to challenge and discovery; (3) hopeful purpose; (4) prosocial orientation; (5) transcendent awareness; (6) positive emotions; and (7) goal setting and management. The survey measured developmental context: youth sparks (passion), belonging, relationships (caring adults, challenging growth, youth-adult partnership), and engagement. The survey is intended to measure group trends to understand the quality and impact of the program. The results will be compiled, along with all other 4-H programs and will be documented in an annual 4-H report.

The results of the survey, attendance records, demographic data, and anecdotal stories from the instructors will be used to modify and improve the program. The outcomes will be reviewed annually to make necessary adjustments. In addition, the outcomes will be used to engage stakeholders, report results to program participants, describe the program, and share lessons learned. The evaluation process will also be reviewed annually in order to ensure the best instruments and the best processes are being utilized.

For the complete report, use the link below to download the PDF version.

Gomez, A. & Luna, N. 2023, 4-H Afterschool Safekey Robotics Program, Spring 2023 Report, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno

Learn more about the author(s)


Also of Interest:

4-H Fun Food Projects
Learn to do fun food projects with the Washoe County 4-H Afterschool program staff.
Chvilicek, S. 2021, Extension, University of Nevada, Reno YouTube Channel

Associated Programs

Building rockets from straws in a great lesson in propulsion.

4-H Youth Development

4-H is a community of young people across America learning leadership, citizenship and life skills.

A group of girls

Clark County (Las Vegas) 4-H Youth Development

4-H programming in the general Clark County area.

kids playing board games

Clark County 4-H Afterschool Program

Extension provides 4-H programming in the afterschool setting. Students learn-by-doing in 4-H Afterschool.