Four years ago, 4-H youth in Wood County learned to program robots. Then they wanted to learn about rockets and electricity. So county staff and volunteers started a STEM project to encourage their interest in science, technology, engineering and math. Recently, the group experimented with batteries made from grocery store produce and electrodes to learn how chemical energy is transformed into electrical energy.
The Wood County 4-H STEM Club Project makes the scientific method fun. Participants learn to ask a question, form a hypothesis, design and conduct an experiment, and then analyze and communicate and their methods and results.
“When someone asked if a battery could be made with a potato and a lime, I asked how they could find out. Before I knew it, a boy built a battery out of just that and then some,” said Laura Huber, Wood County 4-H Youth Development Advisor. “I think the final battery included every kind of produce except for the pumpkin, and that was only because we ran out of electrodes!”
There were also apples, bananas and boiled and raw potatoes in the cornucopia of produce for batteries.
Not only does 4-H STEM give young people in-depth, hands-on experiences that may not be possible in the classroom, it also teaches a scientific thought process that can be applied to situations throughout their lives. Youth with science literacy understand how to set up an experiment and communicate the results.