From Farmer to Aerospace Engineer, 4-H Launches Drones

From Farmer to Aerospace Engineer, 4-H Launches Drones

The farm kids’ organization long associated with sheep shearing and canning vegetables will focus its 6 million youth members on drone aircraft as its official national science experiment this year, 4-H Council’s president and CEO announced Tuesday.

The drone project aligns with a high-tech makeover aimed at encouraging girls to pursue science and engineering careers which, if successful, could make it easier for big U.S. defense contractors like Lockheed Martin to recruit female engineers in the year ahead.

“Agriculture has a significant amount of science in it,” 4-H chief Jennifer Sirangelo said at an International Women’s Day event in New York, adding that she recently rode in a combine harvester that relied on an iPad and GPS to operate. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s Center for Corporate Citizenship organized the 400-person gathering.

The new face of 4-H extends beyond farm country, with chapters in every U.S. county and a focus on girls, Sirangelo told the gathering of corporate social responsibility and nonprofit executives.  Partnerships with large, non-agricultural brands have been instrumental in the transformation.

At Lockheed Martin, with market capitalization of $64 billion and 126,000 employees, upcoming retirements from a predominately male workforce of engineers, present serious recruitment challenges.  With few exceptions, federal law dictates that science and engineering positions go to U.S.-born candidates. Girls pursuing STEM education are necessary to prevent a severe shortage in qualified employees.

“They have a business continuity issue,” said Sirangelo, adding that Lockheed employees are volunteering with 4-H in communities where the defense contractor operates facilities.

At UnitedHealth Group, 4-H was chosen as a nonprofit partner to teach children to eat healthier foods and maintain an active lifestyle in hopes of combatting obesity-related insurance claims, said Sirangelo. 

The teen ambassadors in the 4-H Food Smart Families program “not only influence their peers, but the adults in their circles.”

(Photo credit: Tony Patti )