Written by: James Thomas
Representing Maryland 4-H in the National Youth Engineering Challenge was a highlight of my 2014 4-H year! My journey to the National Youth Engineering Challenge started on August 21st at the Maryland State Fair when I won Champion in the 4-H Tractor Operators Safety Event. As the state champion, I was invited to be a member of Maryland’s Youth Engineering Challenge Team. This event was held September 28-30, 2014 in Lafayette, Indiana. There were competitions in aerospace, bicycle, computer, electric/energy, lawn tractor, robotics, small engines, welding, and of course my event, agricultural tractor operators safety.
The afternoon we arrived in Indiana, teams from all of the states participated in a hands-on learning activity of designing and building a “mousetrap-powered vehicle”. This was a great opportunity to meet the 4-H’ers from other states.
The next morning we competed in our events. The agricultural tractor contest was held at the Tippecanoe County Fairgrounds. We spent the afternoon attending workshops at Purdue University and touring the campus. After dinner the Engineering Bowl was held. Each state had two teams who competed in this event in which we had to answer questions about all areas of the Engineering Challenge.
On our last day, all of the contestants went on industry tours. We toured the Braun Corporation (where they manufacture wheelchair lifts for vans) and Fair Oaks Farms. Fair Oaks Farms’ entire facility runs on cow and pig manure. They transform the farms’ waste into energy by way of anaerobic digesters, thus reducing their dependency on natural gas and electricity.
Our final event of a busy three days was the Awards Banquet. I was very proud to be awarded third place in the Agricultural Tractor Operators Safety event!
The National Youth Engineering Challenge would not have been possible without our chaperones and sponsors. Dr. David S. Ross, Professor Emeritus and Extension Agricultural Engineer (retired), University of Maryland and Mr. Dwayne Murphy, Faculty Extension Assistant, 4-H Youth Development, Baltimore County, were Maryland Group Coordinators and our chaperones. Local sponsors for this event were the University of Maryland Extension, the Maryland 4-H Foundation, Fair View Farm and the Maryland Agricultural Fair Board. Lincoln Electric, Landis+Gyr, Stuart C. Irby Company and John Deere were the national sponsors. Many thanks to all for this great experience!