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Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette Logo Berlin, Ocean Pines News Worcester County Bayside Gazette


Berlin Hoot Owl club hosts first robotics program

(Dec. 3, 2015) Started in spring, the Berlin Hoot Owls Club recently branched out into robotics during a demonstration at the First Baptist Church on Williams Street on Nov. 12.
Sponsored by Worcester County 4-H and the University of Maryland Extension office in Snow Hill, the program drew a dozen participants – a sharp uptick for a fledgling group.
Kathy Decker, an administrative assistant with the extension office, said organizers used a “robust” recruiting effort to boost attendance from a handful of members who previously participated to the 15 who signed up.
“We basically doubled our participation with that November meeting,” she said, adding that three children also called in sick.
The children worked in teams of two, following a “build manual,” to construct an alligator made of Legos. Then, the teams used laptops to program movement, snapping the jaws of their creations open and shut.
Decker said the response was overwhelmingly positive.
“The kids were thrilled,” she said. “It was a lot of fun to see their little faces light up when the robots actually moved when they programed them.”
Robotics is one of the many activities 4-H offers in the focus area of S.T.E.M. education. The nonprofit also offers roughly 120 different “project areas” ranging from aerospace to livestock to cooking.
Worcester County 4-H Program Coordinator Cindy Morris runs those programs, which consist of both in-school and after-school offerings. In particular, Morris said the robotics demonstration promoted teamwork and that the kit itself can be used for a dozen different builds.
Future offerings, she said, would depend on interest.
“I’m actually talking about putting together a robotics workshop, possibly on a Saturday, so they can make some more builds,” she said. Other recent programs have included a “C.S.I.” demonstration that challenged children to use the scientific method to solve a case.
Decker said the overall goal of the club was to “increase 4-H’s footprint” in the Berlin area.
“4-H has been around for over 100 years and they have a pretty strong presence in the central part of the county and also down around Pocomoke, but not enough presence in the heavily populated north end,” she said.
The extension office, she added, is the “nonformal education component” of the university. That includes a number of agricultural services in the county, such as nutrient management and watershed oversight, and 4-H, which is the youth component of its outreach.
The Berlin Hoot Owls Club meets again on Dec. 10. For more information, call the extension office at 410-632-1972 or visit