Robots do surgery, build cars, and assist us with our complex modern lives. This project is all about these amazing machines and learning to build and program your own robots to solve issues you face.

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Exploring 4-H

Exploring 4-H Robotics

Spark Activity: Factoring in Friction

Friction can slow down or limit the movement of objects, but friction is also a useful tool when we need traction or gripping power. What we need to find is the right amount of friction for the current use. Do we need wheels and gears that can turn freely on their axes? Do we need wheels that can grip the road to move a robot forward or up a hill? Sometimes we need to both reduce and increase friction! Using simple household items like a small box, cardboard, paper clips, binder clips, clothespins, straws, different kinds of tape, and toy wheels, explore movement and friction by testing a small box on a number of surfaces, looking at static friction and sliding friction. Test rolling friction by adding wheels (cylinders) or rollers as a way to overcome the overall friction of an item. Plan and design a vehicle to maximize its ability to coast based on the effects of friction. You will also consider constraints of capacity, efficiency, complexity, and costs in the design. You will build or assemble a complex “clipmobile” considering and addressing effects of friction and design constraints. You’ll find the answers yourself!

Source - Junk Drawer Robotics: Robots on the Move

4-H Project Levels and Goals
  • Explore many ways robots are used
  • Learn about movement and friction
  • Learn the elements of mechanics such as the role of levers and gears
  • Discover how sensors are used to create responses
  • Use the engineering design process to make your robot move forward, backward, and turn
  • Attend a robotics competition
  • Practice more advanced robot design and precision programming techniques
  • Create robotic arms that move and grip objects 
  • Explore circuits and electronic systems
  • Use the engineering design process to build a robot that uses sensors to complete a task 
  • Participate in a robotics competition
  • Create an engineering design challenge and build a robot to meet the challenge
  • Explore number systems and programming logic
  • Explore careers in robotics and related fields
  • Job-shadow an engineer or programmer
  • Assistant coach a junior robotics team
Put Your Project Into Action

Show Your Skills

  • Demonstrate a robot performing a simple task
  • Showcase examples of robots in our daily lives
  • Create a poster or display showing a problem that could be solved using robots
  • Develop a display showing the steps and parts used in creating a robot

Service and Leadership

  • Build a robot to pick up trash
  • Create a video to teach your club about where robots are used in your community and state 
  • Learn how robots are changing industry and life in the U.S.
  • Design and build an underwater robot to collect water samples to test for water quality
  • Demonstrate your robots at a senior living facility, science club, school, or library event
  • Teach a robotics workshop
  • Become a junior leader or teen teacher


  • Research the influence of robotic technology on society
  • Talk to local companies that use robots and discover ideas for real-life applications
  • Create a robot that can fill a need in your neighborhood, school, or community and take it to market
  • Consider how you can improve an existing item

Connecting with a Mentor

  • Elementary, high school, or college teachers or students with an interest or expertise in robotics
  • Library or museum staff
  • Engineers and retired engineers from local businesses


  • 4-H local, regional, and state robotics competitions
  • Vex Robotics Competition
  • First® Robotics Competition
  • First® Tech Challenge

Project Manuals & Exhibit Requirements


Youth Enrolled in Robotics 1, 2, and 3 should use The Robotics 1 with EV3 and EV3NMore ONLY if they have access to an EV3 Robotics kit. For youth looking to use the new Lego Mindstorms Inventor Kits or the SPIKE kits, please refer to the online resources listed below for guidance. For youth competing in their respective county fair, and potentially the State Fair, youth will be required to document their experience in a Robotics Notebook, and select/demonstrate one of the selected tasks used in the State Robotics Challenge. The challenge details will be released in late October with the Robotics Notebook template.  

Purchase the manuals above on the Shop Illinois 4-H Store

View exhibit requirements and scoresheets on the Illinois State Fair page.

2 girls with a robot they built
  • Robotics Engineer
  • Robotics Technician
  • Robotics Operator
  • Software Developer
  • Computer Aided Drafting
  • Mechanical Engineer
Start a Conversation
  • Do you like building things with your hands?
  • What problems or solutions could be aided by a robot?
  • How many different robots can you identify?
  • What type of a robot would you like to build and program? Why?

University of California 4-H project sheet

University of Wyoming 4-H project sheet

University of North Dakota 4-H project sheet

UF/IFAS Extension Florida 4-H project handout

Michigan State University Extension 4-H project sheet

University of Illinois 4-H Robotics 4-H Spark Sheets are a collaborative effort of 4-H staff, volunteers, alumni, and teens from across Illinois. A big thanks to the many contributors and reviewers!