Mike Couick, President and CEO, The Electric Cooperatives of South Carolina
I was a failed 4-H’er.
Growing up on a farm in Clover, I first was exposed to 4-H Club in the 1960s at age 8. There weren’t a lot of choices for extracurricular activities in elementary school at the time, so 4-H was a big deal and one I fully embraced: Head, Heart, Hands and Health.
For my first project, I chose beef cattle. My father said I could raise a steer, but only with the understanding that we would butcher it and put it in the deep freeze.
The project quickly turned into a pet. The steer followed me in the pasture (sweet feed was an effective magnet).
Pretty soon it became clear that while the steer would be a good 4-H project, it could not go into our deep freeze. So, we continued to buy our beef from the Dixie Home Store (what we called the local Winn-Dixie), and we sold the steer at the York sale barn, with me deluding myself that somebody else was going to take him on as a pet—sort of a perpetual demonstration project.
Fifty years later, I still enjoy learning through demonstration projects. That’s why I was delighted back in April for the co-op-sponsored EnlightenSC program to become the title sponsor of the 2015 S.C. 4-H Engineering Challenge at Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical College.
EnlightenSC’s mission is to educate young people in South Carolina about energy and promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics—the so-called STEM subjects—so that our students are prepared to face and overcome the energy challenges of the future.
For today’s 4-H’er, beef cattle projects remain an option, but just as important is the option to master new technologies, through the 4-H Engineering Challenge.
Now in its third year, the event was an unqualified success. Participation was at an all-time high with some 200 students from across the state driving in to compete, the largest group coming from Greenville County.
Students ranging in age from 9 to 19 competed on teams and individually in LEGO robotics, bridge building, egg-lofter rockets and GPS. For the first time, an energy challenge was added to the competition.
The event was the perfect marriage of EnlightenSC’s energy-focused educational efforts and South Carolina 4-H’s innovative Science on the Move initiative. Plans already are under way for a bigger, better event in 2016.
Dates, times and other details of the 2016 competition will be available online beginning in August at EnlightenSC.org and the S.C. 4-H Science on the Move website: scionthemove.org/engineeringchallenge. Teachers and students interested in participating in 2016 can contact Katie Rishebarger at firstname.lastname@example.org.
With your help, we can engineer ourselves into a better future for us all—even failed 4-H’ers like me.