(Media release from Floyd County Schools, GA):

Nearly three hundred middle school youth and adults gathered at Rock Eagle 4-H Center for Mission Make-It: The Georgia 4-H Engineering Challenge on September 9, 2023. Mission Make-It allows youth the opportunity to develop teamwork, communication and critical thinking skills while completing engineering challenges. Floyd County School 4-H representatives were: Carolyne Bowman, Charlie Bowman, Tanner Harvey, Jazmyn Hill and Skyler Jones. 

With the growth in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM) youth programs, Georgia 4-H began offering this program in 2016 as a way to offer young people the opportunity to develop engineering skills through hands-on learning experiences. Initiatives focused on STEM join agriculture, civic engagement, and healthy living as the main focus areas for Georgia 4-H programming.

Activities at Mission Make-It centered around a “Parachuting Beavers” theme. This fun and exciting theme connects to a wildlife management operation in Idaho in the late 1940s. To relocate beavers to a remote part of the state, Idaho Fish and Game built wooden boxes and placed beavers inside them. Surplus World War II parachutes were attached to the boxes, and the beavers safely parachuted into the mountains. This successful project relocated nearly 80 beavers and illustrates the need for creativity, innovation, and practicality when solving real-world problems.

Participating 4-H’ers worked in small groups to use the five-phase engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create, and improve. Under the direction of high school teen instructors, youth were challenged to follow the process, seeking to meet the criteria with their prototypes. Youth constructed parachutes for 3-D printed plastic beavers, focusing on aerodynamics, gravity, lift, and drag. Their goal was for the beaver to safely land when dropped, mimicking the Idaho operation of years ago.

Additionally, attendees engineered beaver dam replicas, learning about how beavers build dams to stop flowing water, like rivers and streams.  For this specific activity, they were challenged to use materials similar to real beavers, including sticks, stones, and clay.

“Mission Make-It was a great opportunity for youth to practice the ‘learn by doing’ approach,” said Abbie Salmon, Floyd County 4-H Agent, who brought Floyd County youth to the event. “Teen leaders also gained instructional and leadership skills through mentoring younger youth and helping them realize that STEM is all about trying new things and making changes.”

Youth and adults from 37 counties participated in Mission Make-It this year. The next Mission Make-It event will be for middle school youth at Rock Eagle 4-H Center on September 14, 2024.