True 4-H science teen leaders: Alger County

Alger County has a true 4-H science teen leader in robotics and engineering.

Owen Nettleton on Grand Island for the Archeological Dig. Photo by Eric Drake.
Owen Nettleton on Grand Island for the Archeological Dig. Photo by Eric Drake.

Alger County has a true 4-H teen robotics science and engineering leader in Owen Nettleton. He’s been active in the county’s Au Train 4-H Club for five years, which focuses on crafts and community service, and in the new Cooking and Baking SPIN Club. He is also involved in Marquette County’s 4-H robotics and history clubs.

Alger County’s 4-H program coordinator Liz Wiener commented on why she believes Nettleton is a true robotics science & engineering teen leader.

“I feel Owen is a true science leader due to his interest in robotics and engineering,” said Wiener. “For the Alger County fair last year, Owen designed and built a fully-functioning hydraulic claw arm out of recycled materials. This ‘machine’ could move in four directions and pick up small objects when various syringes filled with water were engaged. Owen won Best of Show for his creation.”

Wiener continued, “Owen enjoys learning how things work, and then teaching others about what he discovered. Despite being unable to attend the National Youth Science Day this year, Owen made it a point to come to the office to work with the Incredible Wearables—and probably figured out how to use it better than the adults!.”

Owen's machine

Owen's Best of Show fully-functioning hydraulic claw arm.

Nettleton is active in community service, helping at the county fair each summer, making cat toys and gathering other supplies for the animal shelter, and participating in Recycling Days with his club.

Last summer, Nettleton’s family hosted Mitsuki, a 16-year-old from Japan, through the Michigan 4-H International Exchange Program. Nettleton enjoyed getting to know her, learning about Japanese customs and eating lots of great food and candy. Nettleton is also currently studying German, with plans to visit Germany with his family sometime in the next few years. Nettleton missed coming to 4-H camp this year, but that was because he was invited to attend a three-day archeological dig and workshop on Grand Island National Recreation Area off the shores of Munising, Michigan.

Nettleton has attended 4-H Exploration Days for the last two years. In 2016, Nettleton was a huge asset to youth attending for the first time, encouraging them to try new things and answering any questions they had. Nettleton has plans to attend 4-H Capitol Experience and Citizenship Washington Focus when he is older.

Nettleton is also very active in the summer Life of Lake Superior program as a participant and helper when needed. One only needs to say, “Hey Owen, can you…” and he is ready and willing to do whatever needs to be done. He does this all with a great sense of humor, and sometimes a dash of endearing air-headedness!

Nettleton enjoys following his passions and studying things in depth. He is a model of a lifelong learner, despite being only 13 years old. He was even recently quoted in an news segment for his robotics team, Robogators—see The Mind Journal’s “Three Upper Peninsula robotics teams make state championships.”

He is also in Boy Scouts Troop 364 in Chatham, Michigan, and volunteers with the local Department of Human Services for foster care. The Robogators also volunteer once a month at the local veteran’s home, Jacobetti. They show the vets their robot and then have the vets drive it themselves. Nettleton also enjoys and somehow finds the time for snowboarding and stilt walking.

Owen volunteering

Owen volunteering at the local Department of Human Services for foster care. Photo by Heather Tyner.

Wiener offered advice for other youth interested in becoming a 4-H teen leader. “To other youth interested in being a true leader, do what you love! Really immerse yourself in your passions. If you don’t know what you like to do, then try lots of different things!”

Alger County is growing a true 4-H teen robotics science and engineering leader in Owen Nettleton!

Michigan 4-H is proud to be part of the National 4-H tradition of supporting and growing true leaders. The next generation of empowered  4-H True Science Leaders continues growing in Michigan.

This article is part of a series featuring “True 4-H Science Teen Leaders” from around the state of Michigan. See the list of articles below for more in this series.

Michigan State University Extension and the Michigan 4-H Youth Development program help to create a community excited about STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). 4-H STEM programming seeks to increase science literacy, introducing youth to the experiential learning process that helps them to build problem-solving, critical-thinking and decision-making skills. Youth who participate in 4-H STEM are better equipped with critical life skills necessary for future success.

To learn more about the positive impact of Michigan 4-H youth in STEM literacy programs, read our 2016 Impact Report: “Building Science Literacy and Future STEM Professionals.”

Michigan 4-H has many 4-H science programming areas for youth to explore. Science is everywhere with many questions to ask and discoveries to be made. For more information about 4-H learning opportunities and other 4-H programs, contact your local MSU Extension office.

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