Exploding Bacon combines FIRST robotics and 4-H to create unique club

Published: April 8th, 2016

Category: It All Began With Ag


It all began with a random name generator and a logo designed on a napkin.

Passionate youth started a robotics club 11 years ago that has since grown to include 43 members on its 2016 roster and a long list of professional and college mentors. 4-H Exploding Bacon incorporates leadership, service and teamwork into FIRST robotics competitions.

“Funny story actually,” said Nathaniel Walters, 15, club co-president. “We were originally going to go with Organized Chaos [as our name], but one of our mentors came in with a pig on a rocket logo drawn on a napkin.”

“We’ve stuck with it ever since,” he said.

The Orange County-based club began with a handful of youth and mentors who had a passion for robotics. Throughout the years, Exploding Bacon has earned more than 50 awards in over 10 seasons.

Students have varied roles like mechanics, animation, programming and outreach, with various leadership roles within each aspect of robotics.

This club is unique because it combines the values of FIRST robotics and 4-H youth development. Karen Miliffe, Orange County 4-H and youth development extension agent, said 4-H and FIRST mesh very well.

“4-H is all about positive youth development,” she said. “In FIRST, they use the term gracious professionalism. Both of those contribute to the same end goal; it’s giving youth the opportunity to do hands-on learning.”

Exploding Bacon members practice life skills like teamwork, professionalism, goal setting and perseverance every day. They are a group of dedicated individuals who meet for up to 24 hours a week during robot building season.

Although Exploding Bacon focuses on robotics, it still holds traditional 4-H club meetings. They hold business meetings every month and robot building meetings almost every day during the six-week season.

The love of robotics is expressed by every member of the club, but another thing is also apparent; their love for each other.

Because youth spend 24 hours a week together building robots, they have developed a family atmosphere that every member is proud of. 4-H has always encouraged personal relationships through the “H” that stands for “heart.”

“My favorite part [of being in this club] is definitely the family atmosphere,” Sarah Hollman, 16, club member, said. “Everyone here is so welcoming. Everyone is very nice and they make sure you feel welcome.”

4-H Exploding Bacon Club Lead, Joyce Walters, is very proud of what her club has accomplished.

“All of our students have actually gone into higher education from this club,” she said.

Walters said many parents credit the club with giving their child motivation and direction to move to college and pursue robotics related degrees. She said 4-H has given the club opportunity to grow and make that impact on many youths’ lives.

Florida 4-H’s only FIRST robotics club competed in the Orlando Regional FIRST Robotics Competition March 11 and 12. They made it to the quarterfinals and were eliminated as the eight seed alliance captain.

Walters said their success in all aspects comes from commitment and passion for FIRST and 4-H.

By Gabriela Valentin

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