This year's 4-H Day Camp took students — at least in their imaginations — far from the heat of summer into the cold of outer space.

 

The theme for this year's camp was a departure from those held in previous years.

 

"We used to do crafts and activities, but this year, we decided to do STEM stuff," said 4-H Junior Leader Ryan Littlejohn.

 

STEM is an acronym that stands for science, technology, engineering and math.

 

"I told them that we were going to do a STEM camp and let the Junior Leaders decide what they wanted to do," said Harvey County Extension Agent Hannah Anderson. "They come up with what we're going to do, we just give them some guidelines and what they're going to focus on."

 

After deciding on an air and space theme, the Junior Leaders wrote and performed a skit, designed multiple STEM projects and incorporated teamwork and competition elements for the campers to take part in.

 

Much of Tuesday morning was spent having the students, who ranged in age from those who had completed kindergarten up through sixth grade, build a "Mars rover." After drawing up their initial design, the campers could dig through tubs of K'NEX to build the rover.

 

"These K'nex we got to borrow from Riley County 4-H," Anderson said. "We hope to get some of our own someday."

 

The goal was to get the rovers to roll down an incline and reach a Mars target laid out on the floor.

 

"I think it's exciting that we get to build things and it requires more involvement," Littlejohn said. "They can all learn something from it."

 

There was plenty of chatter as the teams built and tested their designs, making adjustments so that the rovers would roll fast enough and on a straight enough course to hit their target.

 

"The biggest thing, I think, is the teamwork that they have to have," Littlejohn noted. "They can't build their own rover by themselves — they're working on teamwork."

 

Later on, the campers created paper rockets that were launched by jumping on an empty plastic soda bottle that forced air up through a PVC pipe on which the rockets were placed.

 

"Some of these are 4-H projects that they can be a part of," Anderson said. "Not everyone here is in 4-H; it was open to anyone. A lot of people think that 4-H is just for country kids, that it's all about animals. It's not. We have STEM projects like rocketry, so this introduces them to some of our other 4-H activities and how our junior leaders take a leadership role with the younger kids as they go through 4-H."

 

The Junior Leaders and campers cheered each rover as it made its way down the incline and came to rest near the 12-inch red dot that represented Mars.

 

"I really think there is something for everyone," Littlejohn said. "This is one of the best days of the year. It's just so much fun working and trying to teach (the campers) different things."