Local 4-H Youth Rank in Top 7 at Race to Space Competition

— Written By Rachelle Purnell
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7th Place Team- NRMS Hawks from Northridge Middle School

7th Place Team- NRMS Hawks from Northridge Middle School

5th Place Team- The Big Dogs from Walter G. Byers School

5th Place Team- The Big Dogs from Walter G. Byers School

On Saturday, February 8, 2020, three Mecklenburg County 4-H teams of youth traveled to the campus of North Carolina Agricultural & Technical State University in Greensboro, NC to compete in N.C. A&T State University and Cooperative Extension’s 4-H Race to Space Competition.

The 4-H Race to Space Competition involved teams of up to four youth and two adults to design and build a Rube Goldberg machine with the end goal of planting and watering a seed. This program was proposed to challenge youth ages 12–14 years-old to learn and utilize the engineering design process, and the eight practices of science and engineering. This program also created opportunities for youth to learn problem solving skills, improve their presentation skills as they provided explanations for their contraptions, and practice teamwork.

Mecklenburg County 4-H’s competing teams were The NRMS Hawks from Northridge Middle School, The Bethlehem Center Aces from The Bethlehem Center of Charlotte Inc. and The Big Dogs from Walter G. Byers School. Youth competed against teams from Bertie, Guilford, Mitchell, Hertford and Yancey counties. By the competition’s end, The NRMS Hawks had come in at 7th place and The Big Dogs had come in at 5th place. Their prize? An expenses paid trip to Space Camp at the U.S. Rocket Center in Huntsville, Ala. to represent 4-H at N.C. A&T State University and Mecklenburg County 4-H!

The 4-H Race to Space Competition was designed to address data presented by the White House Initiative on Educational Excellence for African Americans, which stresses the importance of engaging underserved populations in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) outside of the classroom. 4-H has an opportunity to greatly impact the STEM preparation of underserved youth. By pairing youth with a caring adult as an essential element of the program model, our staff and volunteers work to increase the number of underserved youth who learn STEM concepts through these positive relationships.

“4-H is a great opportunity for young people to learn crucial life skills to help make them successful and productive citizens of the future,” said Rachelle Purnell, 4-H Agent, Mecklenburg County 4-H. “The experiences these young people gain the 4-H program gives them the tools and confidence to grow and thrive as leaders.” One participating youth said, “I can solve any problem,” they shared what they learned about themselves through this experience.


4-H is the largest youth development organization in North Carolina, educating hundreds of thousands of young people each year. Extension’s 4-H program is growing the next generation of leaders and equipping youth with the skills to succeed. 4-H programs empower more than seven million young people across the U.S. through experiences that develop critical life skills. The research-backed 4-H experience grows young people who are five times more likely to graduate college; four times more likely to contribute to their communities; three times more likely to be civically active than non 4-H members; and two times more likely to participate in STEM programs.

Image of participantImage of participants