Exploring Mars with Ingenuity

By Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County

Mars Base Camp 4-H STEM Challenge is in full swing this week with the activities in the challenge kit. The kit is still available to order, but in the meantime, you can still explore Mars with activities listed on the Ohio 4-H page at http://go.osu.edu/marsbasecamp.

We have heard a lot about the Mars Rover Perseverance that was launched on July 30, 2020, and is set to land on Mars on February 18, 2021. You can follow the trek of Perseverance in real-time at https://mars.nasa.gov/mars2020/.

Scientists attached a helicopter to the belly of Perseverance to collect information once it lands on Mars. This helicopter is named Ingenuity and is another way to provide pictures, videos, and a sampling of Mars’ atmosphere and landscape. Once it arrives with Perseverance, Ingenuity will be the first powered flight to occur on Mars.

We can engineer our own helicopter with a few simple supplies:

  • 1 large marshmallow
  • 4 small marshmallows
  • 5 toothpicks
  • scissors
  • 1 piece of cardstock (copier paper might work but the thicker paper is ideal. Paper is for printing the last page of the lesson plan from the link below.)

Follow the step-by-step instructions in the lesson plan, keeping in mind a few goals for your helicopter design. These are the same goals the designers of Ingenuity had to keep in mind.

Activity Tips

  • The structure must be light, yet strong
  • Should fly for 90 seconds to provide valuable data
  • Drop your helicopter from 6-8 ft above the floor and see how long it stays in the air!

Remember, engineers made thousands of designs before they achieved the final design that is now on its way to Mars! Once you have that first successful design, think about items that have different weights and how you decrease the weight or increase the time in the air. Redesigning is the name of the game when you are searching for the most effective design in engineering.

Perseverance and Ingenuity are just two efforts to explore Mars and prepare for NASA’s future goal of human exploration on Mars. These efforts are providing valuable information to another human exploration goal, returning astronauts to the Moon by 2024.

Lesson Plan:

Build your own Mars Helicopter

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

On-demand: Pickaway Businesswomen Roundtable

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator, Community Development & STEM, Pickaway County

Discover how leaders and events shape the community. Last month half a dozen local Pickaway County businesswomen joined a special roundtable discussion on career exploration to inspire the next generation of businesswomen. The free on-demand webinar is now available to anyone who wants to explore business career pathways and gain personal life lessons, reflections, and offer an opportunity to expand their professional network. This is a great resource for educators that teach a career exploration class! Please click here to register and gain access to the On-demand Pickaway Businesswomen Roundtable Program. (Session transcripts are provided within the recording.)

Women in business are typically very active community leaders as well, such as supporting local opportunities for engagement. The women involved in this panel are examples of working professionals, but also community leaders and mentors for young professionals to follow. For more information or resource support please reach out to OSU Extension and Pickaway WORKS!

Marvelous Mammals

By Tracy Winters, OSU Extension Education, 4-H Youth Development, Gallia County

Examples of mammals, image source: https://answersingenesis.org/are-humans-animals/what-are-humans-animals-mammals-neither/

Close your eyes and think of your favorite animal. Was it a mammal? Mammals are one of the most diverse animal classes in the world.  They can be found on all seven continents, living in almost every available habitat on Earth! They swim the deepest seas, climb the highest mountains, live entirely underground, swing from the treetops, fly and even drive a car!  Well, one mammal can drive a car, that’s right – humans are mammals, too! So, what makes a mammal a mammal?

To be a card-carrying member of the mammal class there are three things you must have:

  1. Hair or Hair Follicles – All mammals have hair on some part of their bodies for at least some point in their life span. Some are covered in thick fur; others may only have a few facial hairs, and some have specialized hair follicles like whiskers or quills.
  2. Mammary Glands – All female mammals have specialized glands, called mammary glands that produce milk for nursing their young.
  3. Middle Ear Bones – All mammals have three middle ear bones commonly called the Malleus, Incus, and the Stapes. These bones transmit sound from vibration on the eardrum.

Activity: Expedition Mammal Quest

Gather your supplies to view and document mammals:

  • Digital camera or cell phone for pictures
  • Mammal Journal – this can be a simple notebook for taking notes, drawing descriptions, etc.
  • Colored pencils, crayons, or markers for notes or drawing
  • Backpack to carry field supplies
  • Local mammal field guide or a field guide app on your cell phone
  • Optional Binoculars

Then select a field trip location, like your backyard, local park, state forest, or even farm are all great location for your expedition! Then do a little research on local mammals in your area, such as field guides, internet, or talk to park rangers. There are also a lot of great apps available for researching mammals, such as Mammal Mapper.

Having the right gear is important for your outside expedition, be prepared:

  • Wear closed-toed shoes with good traction like hiking boots
  • Wear insect repellent and avoid perfumes or body lotions that may attract biting insects
  • Wear long sleeves and pants (dress for the weather) you can tuck your pants into your socks to avoid ticks getting on your skin
  • Carry a light backpack with supplies, a bottle of water, a light snack, and a small first aid kit
  • Know how to identify local poisonous plants such as poison ivy and poisonous snakes in the area/state you are visiting

During your expedition, look for and draw or record signs or sighting of mammals in your journal and with digital pictures. Keeping records is important, because you may want to compare your findings with new expeditions or revisit locations at different times of the year. Having journals and pictures will help you learn more about the mammals around you. Remember to:

  • Be sure to look for: tracks (especially around water sources), scat (animal dung), scratching on trees, signs of dens, areas where mammals may have slept, animal bones, fur, places where mammals may have been eating like chewed twigs, nutshells, etc
  • The best chance to see mammals is early morning (dawn) and late evening (dusk)
  • Staying quiet is important, sometimes just sitting quietly will allow you to see more animals than moving around

Ready for more Outdoor Adventures? Check out Gallia County Extension’s Cloverbud Investigator series at go.osu.edu/gci. For more information contact, Tracy Winters winters.5@osu.edu.

Peer-reviewed by: Margo Long, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Marion County

Pickaway Businesswomen Roundtable, Virtual Career Exploration Opportunity

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator, Community Development & STEM, Pickaway County

Are you interested in learning more about STEM careers in business? Take advantage of this free virtual networking opportunity with Pickaway County businesswomen leaders and explore local career pathways with a live Q&A session. Build connections for your future! Register now for the live panel discussion with local businesswomen leaders working in Pickaway County, Sept. 22, 2020, @ 10 AM#NationalBusinessWomensDay

Program image created by Meghan Thoreau in Adobe Spark.

Registration required: go.osu.edu/businesswomen. After you register, a unique Zoom Webinar link will be emailed to you, please do not share this meeting link as it will affect your ability to participate in this virtual event.

Our Businesswomen Panelists Include


STACEY SARK is Co-owner and VP of Operations of Mid-Ohio Water Management, LLC, a family-owned excavation and drainage company that she manages with her husband Ryan. As vice president of operations, she works in the field as well as manages the office and finances. Prior to that, Stacey worked at P3 (Pickaway Progress Partnership), our county’s economic development agency for over 7 years and continues to work with them as a consultant maintaining their financials. Stacey earned a bachelor’s degree in Agriculture Business from Wilmington College. She serves on the Pickaway County Planning Commission, is the chair for Pickaway County Community Foundation’s PCN Agriculture Committee, serves on the advisory board of Pickaway WORKS, and is a member of the Teays Valley Golden Sound band boosters. She also works with her daughter Delaney, raising and selling 4-H show steers. Stacey is a long-time resident of Pickaway County and a Westfall High School graduate. She and her husband Ryan have three children and live on their farm in Scioto Township. For more information contact Stacey, staceysark1@gmail.com.

BETHANY REID is the Vice President of Administration & Marketing for Health Care Logistics, Inc. Health Care Logistics (HCL) is a 40+ year family owned and operated business with world headquarters tucked under the famous Pumpkin Tower in Circleville. HCL specializes in distributing over 8,000 unique and hard to find medical supply items as well as limitless innovation solutions and manufacturing processes centered around the healthcare industry. Bethany is very involved in Pickaway County and serves on a multitude of committees and boards such as Trinity Lutheran Preschool, P3, and the Pickaway Ag & Event Center Leadership Team. She is also an extremely passionate 4H advisor for an 83 member 4-H club, and the Washington Hill Climbers. Bethany is a 1994 graduate of Logan Elm High School and a 1998 graduate of Capital University. She currently holds an inactive CPA license in addition to her bachelor’s degree in accounting.  Bethany is married to her high school sweetheart, Brian Reid, and have four beautiful children: Brittany, BJ, Blayton, and Bailey. She and her family reside on a small 5-acre farm southeast of Circleville, with a variety of animals and enjoy camping, shooting sports, traveling, and renovating their 159-year-old farmhouse. For more information contact Bethany, breid@gohcl.com.

HEIDI WHITE has been employed by Kingston National Bank since 1998 in a variety of positions and currently serving as Vice President and Branch and Sales Manager of the newest branch in Circleville. Heidi grew up in Ross County and has been a resident of the Logan Elm School district since 2001. Heidi is a graduate of Zane Trace High School and has a Bachelor of Science in Human & Consumer Sciences from Ohio University. In the community, Heidi is a member of the Circleville Noon Rotary, a 2018 Pickaway Fellow, serves on the Pickaway County YMCA Advisory Board and the PCN Leadership for Tomorrow committee. She is also serving her first term as a member of the Logan Elm Board of Education. For more information contact Heidi, h.white@kingstonnationalbank.com.

JESSICA MULLINS is the Executive Vice President and Chief Operations Officer of The Savings Bank in Circleville. She oversees the deposit operations of all branches, facilitates vendor relations, and manages operational reporting, conversions, and risk management.  Jessica is a graduate of The Ohio State University achieving a B.S. degree in Business Administration with majors in Finance and Marketing. She has worked for The Savings Bank for 17 years and previously worked for Bank One (Chase) as a financial analyst. Jessica also serves the community by residing on various boards and being involved in community events. She currently serves on the Pickaway County Community Foundation Board, the Brooks Yates Housing Opportunities Board, Circleville Noon Rotary, and is a 4-H advisor for the Westfall Livestock 4-H Club. She is a graduate of the Pickaway Fellows program. She has previously served as board president for the Pickaway County Board of Developmental Disabilities, a board member for the Pickaway County Chamber, board member of Wayne Township Zoning Board, and others. Jessica resides in Circleville with her two children who attend Circleville High School and Middle School. For more information contact Jessica, jessica.mullins@thesavingsbank.net.

KATIE LOGAN HEDGES is the Director of Operations for a family-owned business, FORJAK Industrial, a commercial media blasting and coating facility. She graduated from Otterbein University in 2008 with a degree in Public Relations. Katie is responsible for all operations relating to 75 employees and over $14M in yearly revenue. She also consults for a conglomerate of not-for-profit public charter schools where she has worked since 2008. Currently, Katie served in many leadership roles, e.g. chairwomen of the Pickaway Metropolitan Housing Authority, chair of the Leadership for Tomorrow fund for the Pickaway County Fellows, secretary of the Pickaway County Welcome Center & Visitors Bureau, Circleville City Councilperson, Board Member of Circleville City School Foundation, member of Pickaway County 100+ Women Who Care, member of the Pickaway County Homeless Coalition, lector at St. Joseph’s Catholic Church, and member of the Strategic Planning Committee for the Pickaway County Community Foundation. In her free time, Katie enjoys traveling abroad, reading, and writing a book. Leadership and a deep-rooted sense of community have been instilled in Katie since she was a young girl. She believes it’s the responsibility of every citizen to play a role in the community in which they live – whether that’s giving of their time, treasure, or talents. For more information contact Katie, khedges@forjakindustrial.com.

JOY EWING is the Director of Pickaway County Job and Family Services.  She is a graduate of Allen East High School, near Lima, Ohio. She received her Bachelor of Arts Degree in Social Work from Wilmington College and her Master’s in Public Administration from Walden University. Joy has worked at Pickaway County Job and Family Services for 25 years. She has been in several departments and positions during her time at the Agency. Joy started in Customer Service, then moved to various Caseworker positions. She joined the management team as an Administrator in 2006. In 2011, Joy was appointed as the Director of the Agency. Joy has served on several Boards and Community organizations.  Currently, she is a member of Circleville Noon Rotary. Joy is a Board member for Pickaway County Community Foundation, Pickaway County Chamber of Commerce, and Pickaway County Family Children First Council. For more information contact Joy, joy.ewing@jfs.ohio.gov.

Program sponsors are Pickaway WORKS and OSU Extension, Pickaway CountyRegistration required: go.osu.edu/businesswomen.

American Business Women’s Day is an American holiday, nationally recognized on September 22. The day of celebration marks the 1949 founding date of the American Business Women’s Association, the mission of which is, “to bring together businesswomen of diverse occupations and to provide opportunities for them to help themselves and others grow personally and professionally through leadership; education, networking support and national recognition.”[1]

This holiday was recognized in 1983 and 1986 by Congressional resolution and a proclamation issued by President Ronald Reagan.[2] It commemorates the important legacy and contributions of the more than 68 million American working women and 7.7 million women business owners.[3] Moreover, it provides an opportunity for ABWA chapters and individual businesswomen to celebrate their accomplishments within the American and global marketplace.

Photo source: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/american-business-womens-day-september-22/

Photo source: https://nationaldaycalendar.com/american-business-womens-day-september-22/

  1.  “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2009-03-22. Retrieved 2009-09-22.
  2. ^ http://www.reagan.utexas.edu/archives/speeches/1986/092286d.htm
  3. ^ “Archived copy”. Archived from the original on 2011-04-26. Retrieved 2011-04-12.

For more information please contact, Meghan Thoreau, thoreau.1@osu.edu.

Colored Milk! And we are not just talking chocolate!

By Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County

Youth engaging in a milk science experiment. Source: https://static.ozobot.com/assets/3e0f1c38-featured_800x400-1.jpg

Milk is produced by all mammals to raise their young, but we also consume it as an animal product coming from cattle, sheep, or goats. Milk is mostly water but also contained vitamins, minerals, proteins, and fat. You don’t just add water to dilute your whole milk to skim milk. You need a way to remove those fat molecules to change whole milk to skim milk (sometimes call fat-free). We have a way to see these fat molecules in motion – it will convince you they exist!

Magic Colored Milk Science Project

If you add food coloring to milk, not much happens, but it only takes one simple ingredient to turn the milk into a swirling color wheel. Here is what you do:

Magic Milk Materials

  • 2% or whole milk
  • food coloring
  • dishwashing liquid
  • cotton swab
  • plate

Magic Milk Instructions

  1. Pour enough milk onto a plate to cover the bottom.
  2. Drop food coloring onto the milk.
  3. Dip a cotton swab in dishwashing detergent liquid.
  4. Touch the coated swab to the milk in the center of the plate.
  5. Don’t stir the milk; it isn’t necessary. The colors will swirl on their own as soon as the detergent contacts the liquid.

How It Works

Milk consists of many different molecules, including fat, protein, sugars, vitamins, and minerals. If you just touch a clean cotton swab to the milk (try it!), not much will happen. The cotton is absorbent, so you create a current in the milk, but you don’t see anything dramatic happen.

When you introduce detergent to the milk, several things happen at once. The detergent lowers the surface tension of the liquid, so the food coloring is free to flow throughout the milk. The detergent binds with the fat molecules in the milk, altering the shape of those molecules and setting them in motion. The reaction between the detergent and the fat forms micelles, which is how detergent helps lift grease off of dirty dishes. As the micelles form, pigments in the food coloring get pushed around. Eventually, equilibrium is reached, but the swirling of the colors continues for quite a while before stopping.

For more information contact Travis West, west.222@osu.edu.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.


4-H Club Tools: Virtual Reality and 360-degree Video

By: Elliott Lawrence, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Lucas County

Photos: (left) Virtual Reality using augmented reality to overlay information on a map of Ottawa, Ontario, Kanada by Tobias. (right) A young student in South Korea using VR technology by Insung Yoon. Retrieve from: https://unsplash.com/photos/l862hX_FET8

Today’s world is full of new learning technology resources. Some of these new technologies are geared for entertainment purposes only, but many new VR technologies are designed for the classroom environment. Virtual reality (VR) can be both, but let’s focus on how it can be used in the classroom or club environment. Over the last decade, youth programming has seen an increase in regulations to ensure a safe learning environment. Additional regulations are triggered when new learning technologies are used to teach youth. However, there are many tools and controls developed to regulate the student’s learning experience. For example, an educator can restrict which apps are available on devices at any given time, can lockout devices during instruction time, or can mirror the student’s VR experience on an educator’s screen to ensure the students are following instruction. VR is an immersive interactive experience that connects classrooms and students to knowledge, augmented constructs, and 360-degree worlds that are well worth adapting our teaching methods to following a few additional regulations.

What is Virtual Reality?

Virtual reality is defined as a simulation of a three-dimensional image or environment that can be interacted with in a seemingly real or physical way by a person using special electronic equipment, such as a helmet with a screen inside or gloves fitted with sensors. However, having a headset is not necessary to explore VR and 360-degree experiences.[1] Students can use a phone, a tablet, or a computer to move around and explore a virtual space either by moving the mobile device or moving the computer mouse to shift the screen’s perspective. This allows some flexibility between technologies available in a classroom at any given time. Perhaps the educator only has limited headsets, using a mix of headsets and mobile devices is an easy solution.

Below is a few second clips of a child exploring the sensory playground at COSI in Columbus, Ohio. Anyone that watches can virtually experience what it’s like to climb through the play structure from all points of view at any given time as the 360-video plays out. This effect, like reality, gives the observe some choices in what direction and where to turn, lending several unique experiences to play out simultaneously.

Video: COSI sensory playground in Columbus, Ohio. Recorded by Phoenix Jacquet at age 9. Retrieve from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kNDbEaTaCbw&feature=youtu.be

Or allow your students to sit inside of an all-electric Chevy Bolt.

Video: 2019 Chevy Bolt Interior, created by Meghan Thoreau. Retrieve from: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NqfB2Z0snC4&feature=youtu.be

There is a wide variety of ways to use virtual reality technology. Educators can also document or allow share student progress.

There is also an increase in social media sharing platforms that are allowing 360-video more accessible, such as, YouTube, Facebook, and Google Expeditions. These platforms allow the user visibility in how to experience these 360-videos, immersively wearing a headset or externally through a mobile device.

Google Expeditions

Google Expeditions is a free app that allows the teacher to have control over what the students see in their VR Headsets or mobile devices. There are over 900 Expeditions to choose from ranging from the International Space Station to a Dairy Farm in Lancaster County Pennsylvania. While the virtual field trips are self-guided most of them take 30-45 minutes to complete. In Google Expeditions all of the content that is needed for facilitating the field trip is contained in the app. There is no need to research the area before, all of the talking points and discussion topics are placed in the “expedition”.

Getting Started

The resources that you need are the following:

  • A teacher device- this can be an iPad or tablet
  • Explorer devices- this can be their own smartphone or their parent’s smartphone;
  • A router*

* Does not need access to the internet, it just needs to be powered on for the explorer devices and the teacher device to connect to.)

It should be noted that the Google Expedition app is required on both the teacher device and the explorer device. The app can be downloaded from the Apple Store or Google Play.

Virtual Field Trips

The virtual field trip is an endless opportunity for exploration of the world in the comfort and safety of your own meeting place. It is endless where you can take your young explorers to and watch them get excited about a new place they have never been to.

Educators can also use Tour Creator, which allows students to become the creatures through uploading, editing, and sharing their own Google Expedition experience to their classmates or to the world.

Video Tips, How to conduct a Virtual Field Trip

Link to picture to use: https://unsplash.com/photos/l862hX_FET8.

[1] McMillan K, Flood K, Glaeser R. Virtual reality, augmented reality, mixed reality, and the marine conservation movement. Aquatic Conserv: Mar Freshw Ecosyst.2017;27(S1):162–168. Retrieved from: https://doi.org/10.1002/aqc.2820

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

The UnThunkable: Teaching Middle School and High School Girls Programming During a Pandemic

By: Margo Long, OSU Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Marion County

During COVID-19 and the time of ultimate screen time fatigue, why would anyone want to add another virtual experience to the calendar? Because the mission to close the gender gap in technology and change the image of what a programmer looks like and does daily, doesn’t stop.

I recognized the need after receiving much positive feedback from a five-week series designed to introduce youth to both the 4-H program and coding. By creating a connection with women who incorporated technology into their everyday work and including unplugged activities, I realized I could contribute to “cracking the gender code.”

According to Girls Who Code, in 1995 only 37% of computer scientists were women. The percentage will continue to decline to 22% by 2022, if not addressed. It has been recognized girls lose interest in computer science between the ages of 13 and 17.

Program Overview

Incorporating the Girls Who Code educator guide, activities, and researching other online resources and video, 4-H World Changers was a five-week series featuring live instruction customized with hands-on, interactive learning opportunities for participants. Each session included custom presentations that walked participants through visual design, variables, conditionals, and functions –all components necessary to create a user-friendly mobile application.

Selecting the Technology

With hundreds of different coding languages in the world, each can be used to create something powerful. A simple Google search leads to an overwhelming number of computer science curricula. So, how do you choose? The goal was to keep in mind my own personal experience level (more HTML and CSS), as well as that of program participants. It’s easier to start with the basics before diving into text-based languages.

This series utilized a web-based program that allows apps to be created for both Android and iOS devices, which eliminates the compatibility barrier. Thunkable allows novice users the ability to build apps by utilizing the “drag and drop” method of components to connect them together with block coding.

A wireframe created by a participant to plan their mobile application.

Creating the Connection

One of the most important components of the series is to ensure youth realize women exist in the technology industry. Many times, women not highlighted in the media or mentioned in textbooks. Each week showcased women from diverse backgrounds: some who grew up coding and are now successful leaders in their field and others who have found success in business, in teaching, or as entrepreneurs learning to code as adults. The goal was to empower and inspire girls to understand how their passions for something can be transformed into a career within technology. Each woman introduced the relationship between their career exploration to the correlation between one of the program’s values and the coding lesson.

Fran Kalal was featured in the second session of 4-H World Changers to help emphasize the importance of visual design for mobile applications.

Value of Virtual Programs
In this time of uncertainty, there was no better opportunity to continue the 4-H program mission. By providing experiences to bring out youth’s potential, their passions and drive helped empower them to exhibit bravery, activism, and resilience by establishing connections with similar youth, all from behind a computer. At the conclusion of the program, the aim was for participants to gain a better understanding of the following:

  • Bravery – In an unprecedented situation, youth and adults are adapting to a new way of living almost daily, so it is important to stay brave in the face of uncertainty.
  • Connection – Keeping with a set routine can be impactful and meeting with others helps combat the challenge of social isolation.
  • Activism – Sharing the world of technology with girls has a powerful and potential positive impact within their communities. This program empowered girls to learn something new and use code to create tools that provide support and build connections during a challenge.
  • Resilience – Learning virtually requires flexibility and perseverance. Becoming frustrated or not understanding something is acceptable, but teaching problem-solving skills is vital.

For more information contact Margo Long, long.1632@osu.edu.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.


littleBits: Hands-on Prototyping and Learning with Modular Electronics

By: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator in Community Development programmatic focus on STEM Education and Career Exploration.

Program photos showing youth grouped into workstations listening to Educator’s lesson overview. Photographed by Trent Roberts.

Teaming up with K-12 educators is essential to keeping Extension programs dynamic and relevant to what students are currently learning and accessing in their school districts. Partnering with local schools also gives my programs the advantage of utilizing new school-owned technologies.

For example, this past year I partnered with Trent Roberts, Media Specialist in the Circleville City Schools District. I utilized the district’s Little Bits classroom kit to teach in their Extra Mile program to a group of  6th graders and a group of 7th-8th graders. The four-day electronics series spanned over a month and engaged the students in the engineering design process and prototyping.

Program Video Highlight

Circleville Middle School’s Extra Mile Program: littleBits series program highlight video, produced by Meghan Thoreau in iMovies.

Four Day Lesson Plan

LittleBits has easily accessible lesson plans, educator guides, activities, troubleshooting tips, and customizable handouts for different grades, subjects, and learning pathways. I developed my program by researching and filtering their online resources and videos, then customizing the materials to fit my programming needs. Three of the four days included custom presentations that walked students through the basics of electronics, differentiating modular Bits, connecting the challenges to real-world applications, building terminology, and highlighting each day’s challenges.

Day 1: Little Bits overview (60+ minutes)

Focused on the following topics: What are Little Bits? How do they work? How Little Bits connect to real-world applications? What is the design thinking/engineering design process? Students into small groups offering them two-challenge options: 1) Invent an Art Machine and 2) Invent Electric Car. Allowed students time to remix their prototypes.

Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 1, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.

STEM education is supposed to mirror the problem-solving mindset required in the real world. Real problems are solved with a multidisciplinary approach, rather than applying one subject at a time. LittleBit electronics provide the perfect overlay tools to teach simultaneous subjects such as biology, math, physics, electronics, music, art, and more through prototyping solutions. For example, day-two lessons used electronics to prototype and simulate biology and environmental concepts. (Several add-on components were customized ahead of time for the students due to time constraints, such as already cut and laminated animals’ parts for easy assembly, dismantle, and reuse for back-to-back programming.)

Day 2: Little Bits Reactive Organisms Challenge (60+ minutes)

Focused on the following topics: creature connections, animal senses, and animal food web. All of the design challenges incorporate the design thinking process. Students again divided into small groups, offering three-challenge options: reactive organisms’ challenges. Students had time to remixing prototype designs.

Middle school students work through a reactive organism design challenge. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.

Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 2, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.

Day 3: Security Device Challenge (60+ minutes)

Focused on alarm system designs using the design thinking process. Students divided into small groups, offering three-challenge options: invent a security device with time allowed for students to remix their prototypes.

The student is working through an alarm system design challenge using littleBits electronics. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.

Teaching Presentation of littleBits Day 3, created by Meghan Thoreau in Prezi.

Day 4: Final Challenge (60+ minutes)

Focused on the following topics: break into small groups, three-challenge option: 1) Create something useful for your classroom, 2) Invent something for good, or 3) Create a moving piece of art. Students had to try to remix their prototype designs.

The student shows off his bike design solution with turn signal and horn solutions, joined by Trent Roberts, Media Specialist of Circleville City Schools. Photographed by Meghan Thoreau.

The Benefits

The benefits of incorporating littleBits technology into your programs and classrooms are substantial and multiskilled, honing and strengthening collaboration, creativity, and the application of higher-order thinking skills. Students become problem-solvers, designers, engineers, editors, and team players in working on a design project. The adaptability and instruction of this technology can be modified to accommodate a variety of age groups and skill levels. LittleBits can easily challenge older students as well. Students gain self-management skills as they break down tasks to accomplish a larger task, solving a larger problem. LittleBits allows students to cultivate skills that will serve them well in today’s workforce. Merging the learning with littleBits with the core curriculum is another value-added benefit.

“I Broke Science, Foil on Foil!”

Please enjoy the short snippet of a young STEMist that just broke science! For more information contact Meghan Thoreau, thoreau.1@osu.edu.

A student explains how he broke science in a short clip from littleBit program. Recorded by Trent Roberts.


Brown, Stacy. (2018). Chapter 6. Big Impact with littleBits, Vol. 54, No. 4. Retrieved from https://journals.ala.org/index.php/ltr/article/view/6673/8953.

Dochshanov, Alden and Tramonti, M. (Janurary 2017). A Multidisciplinary Approach in STEM Education. Retrieved from https://www.researchgate.net/publication/317491980_A_Multidisciplinary_Approach_in_STEM_Education.

LittleBits. (n.d.). littleBits Classroom. LittleBits Classroom. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.littlebits.cc/welcome.

LittleBits. (n.d.). LittleBits: Select Your Kit. Https://Www.Littlebits.Cc/Getting-Started. Retrieved July 10, 2020, from https://www.littlebits.cc/getting-started.

Spencer, John and Juliani, A. J. (2017)Empower: What Happens When Students Own Their Learning, IMPress, 84.

Peer-Reviewed: Sally McClaskey, OSU Extension Program Manager, Education & Marketing. She develops and directs educational programs at the Nationwide & Ohio Farm Bureau 4-H Center.

Catapults: Launching into STEM Fun

By: Travis West, Extension Educator, 4-H Youth Development, Vinton County

Catapults are a great introductory engineering project that can be accomplished with several items you might have around your house or classroom. Hands-on experiences like constructing a catapult give kids a chance to explore the Design Thinking Process. Failure of their designs is inevitable but the repeated cycle of creating, building, testing, and improving is critical. The workforce is looking for employees that understand failure and its role in pushing you to reengineer a better solution each time.

Design Thinking Process image from: https://www.maqe.com/insight/the-design-thinking-process-how-does-it-work/

Items you might use for your catapult

  • rubber bands
  • paper clips
  • popsicle sticks (or similar pieces of wood)
  • paper cups
  • plastic utensils
  • tape

There are many ways to be successful in your design, but launching an item into the air is the first goal, followed by precision and accuracy to advancing your challenge!

You will need a “basket” that will hold the item you are launching and moving parts will be necessary to give you that acceleration needed to move the item. Make sure that you take time to brainstorm a design plan before constructing, but know that multiple changes in design are expected. A good plan on paper does not always mean a good plan during construction so be willing to change and test out different options before arriving at the ONE. The ONE that you think will work, the ONE you have tested, and the ONE that is ready for that official test launch.

Youth Participants building and testing out a catapult design challenge.

Once you have that first successful launch, think about items that have different weights and how they might perform on your catapult. Can you launch a marshmallow and a sugar cube with your design? Test it out! Explore an agriculture-related catapult challenge with the Hay Swift Kick STEM Challenge video and activity.

Hay Swift Kick Catapult Video: https://ohio4h.org/statewide-programs/4-h-science/stem-pathways/challenges/hay-swift-kick

Lesson Plan

STEM PATHWAYS Hay Swift Kick STEM Challenge!

Peer-reviewed by: Meghan Thoreau, OSU Extension Educator in Community Development programmatic focus on STEM Education and Career Exploration.

4-H Camp Tech

4-H Camp Tech is a three-day, two-night camp, located on the campus of The Ohio State University, that introduces youth in grades six-eight to a variety of activities that include: coding, robotics, engineering design, electricity and more. Camp Tech is based at the Ohio 4-H Center with overnight accommodations in an OSU dorm.

4-H Camp Tech is set for June 2021. Registration will open in March.