On the lower level of their home off of Wilson Mills Road in Chester Township, Jeff and Adrienne La Favre have a room with boxes full of electrical supplies, a couple of computers and even a 3D printer. Mr. La Favre, the primary adviser of Geauga Engineering and Robotics 4-H club, pulled out a few of the boxes, which held examples of the projects that members work on throughout the first few senior levels of the club, including a line following robot, a crystal radio and an amplifier.
“For the first three years (of the senior levels) we have a set of projects that everybody completes,” Mr. La Favre explained. “Once they’ve completed those three years, then we call them a Journeyman. And after that point they design and build their own projects.”
GEAR members plan to share their projects at a booth in the Junior Fair Building during the Great Geauga County Fair that began Thursday and runs through Monday over the Labor Day holiday weekend at the county fairgrounds in Burton.
The completed GEAR upper-level projects have been diverse this year, from a working prosthetic arm to a card-dealing robot, but it all starts with teaching junior members – who are typically in third and fourth grade – the basics of electricity and magnetism.
One of GEAR’s youngest members, Caroline Yeager, 10, of Russell, shared that she worked on a project on magnetism and how it’s used in everyday life, as well as a project on astronomy where she replicated Galileo’s fundamental observations. She was able to recognize Jupiter from the outfield at her baseball game after working on her project, Caroline said.
Several of the younger senior members, including Kaylee Daley, 13, of Chester Township, Daniel Novak, 11, of Burton and Vincent Dragolich, 13, of Huntsburg, represented Geauga County at the Ohio State Fair earlier this summer. Vincent shared his project on solar panels alongside his solar-powered robotic car, Daniel presented his line following robot, and Kaylee presented her crystal radio and amplifier.
“I just got the participation ribbon, but I did get further than I did last year,” Kaylee said of the experience. Mr. La Favre explained that it’s an honor for members to go to the state fair no matter whether they win or not, since it means they made the top project in their county.
“With robotics, it’s not about winning, it’s about learning and making mistakes and really realizing that you made mistakes and keeping things going forward,” Daniel said.
Five of the seventh-grade GEAR members proved that learning can still lead to winning when they attended the National Robotics Challenge and competed in the Internet of Things contest, which is typically only open to high school participants. The team won both the Gold Award and the Honda Innovation Award – the top award given at the NRC – for their robot which could be controlled from the internet to take pictures and record audio.
Several of the senior members who were a part of the winning 2018 team have gone on to work on similarly advanced projects over the course of this year.
Alyssa Mobley, 14, of Chester Township, designed and built a prosthetic arm using the 3D printer. The project took several sessions to print and assemble, and Alyssa is now certified to build a prosthetic arm for someone, according to Mr. La Favre.
“I decided that I would do it because it sounded really interesting and I actually ended up really liking the project so I’m going to continue with it,” Alyssa said. “I have my badges, which you have to earn – you have to submit pictures and a video of your arm and then they certify you so that you can actually start making an arm for someone. So that’s what I’m going to be starting hopefully soon.”
Bryn Morgan, 15, and Grant Congdon, 15, both of Russell, worked together to create what they called an ISPS, or Improved Spatial Positioning System. The duo went to the state fair for their project, which is a system that functions much like GPS, but utilizes a laser instead of radio waves to calculate the user’s position.
“We were able to get an accuracy much greater than your standard GPS, but is a lot cheaper than the, many thousand dollar GPS’s that you would have to buy to get the same accuracy on a smaller scale,” Bryn explained.
With his card-dealing robot, James (Jimmy) Horwitz, 17, of Chagrin Falls, won the Clock Award at the state fair this year, which is the highest award for his division. The robot includes a LCD screen that functions as a user interface to choose how many cards the user wants dealt.
“The engineering behind getting one card out at a time is actually surprisingly a lot more difficult than I thought it would be coming into this,” Jimmy said of working on his robot. “It would just be spewing out a couple of cards at a time instead of trying to accurately get one.”
Jimmy’s sister proposed a solution that ended up solving his problem. “I was really surprised. The best solutions just kind of come out of nowhere.”
Though the members of GEAR get plenty of experiential learning about engineering and robotics, Mrs. La Favre said her goal is to instill the 4-Hers with a sense of teamwork and ability to communicate with others.
Alyssa discussed the teamwork she experienced alongside fellow members at the NRC in 2018. “During the [National Robotics] Competition I thought everyone worked extremely well together, which was good because I think that’s probably the best time we’ve all worked together,” Alyssa said.
“I have found that after I present my project to one of the judges, then after that when I have to present like something else to maybe my friends or a teacher or the class, then I found it easier to do because I had some practice with doing it,” Kaylee said.
In addition to a booth, GEAR members are planning a demonstration at the Junior Fair building on Saturday starting at 1:30 p.m. Mrs. La Favre said there will be cards available at the booth with QR codes that link to videos of the projects created by members.