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Irrigators up to the (Rube Goldberg) challenge

The Irrigators team includes Mary Strommen (left), Josiah Trost, Caden Miller, Micah Trost and Ella Luskey. Walter Jung is not pictured. They will demonstrate their engineering feat at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, in the Dakota County Fair 4-H Building. Submitted photo

Each year special engineering 4-H teams "MacGyver" machines to compete against other teams in the state.

Next week, the Irrigators will demonstrate their project at 6 p.m. Thursday, Aug. 9, during the Dakota County Fair. This team is part of Top Notchers 4-H Club in Dakota County that includes more than 20 families from the Vermillion and Hastings area.

The Irrigators also plan to compete in the engineering and design challenge this month at St. Cloud University.

This year's engineering challenge is to design a Rube Goldberg-style project — a machine of sorts that will plant a seed and water it, according to coach Jared Trost. His sons, Josiah and Micah, are club members.

"Our team works together to build a complicated machine," Trost said.

The others coaches are Tom Jung and Dan Luskey.

"It takes a lot to build it and we are emphasizing concepts under STEM or science, technology, engineering and math," Trost said.

Three teams work through 10 engineering and designing steps that involve all kinds of fun movement and maneuvers to get the pieces and parts to work.

"One part is a car that trips a mousetrap that starts another step," Trost explained. "I think one of the things that I take away from working together is helping the kids learn how to make things come together."


Youth learn how to solve problems and build tenacity when things do not work well at first. The fun for youth is to watch their project work well during competition.

For 2017, teams created a machine to raise a flag and see that the flag could wave at the end. "Last year's project did not fail and it would run every time, but the previous two years, that was not the case," Trost said.

"For me, in particular, I like to lead because it gives us a good problem to solve that we can work on together, and I have seen other involved dads and daughters and dads and sons work together and that is fun to see," Trost said.

This year's challenge involves soda and candy, specifically placing a Mentos candy piece into a pop bottle.

"The first time the balloon blows up and pushes a rod up, and then it tips the bottle of water and irrigates the seed that was planted and then there will be a balloon blow up and a big geyser of Coke will happen," Trost said.

The team had to experiment with the amount of Coke to get the machine to work.

4-H Club diversity

Youth from 25 Dakota County 4-H Clubs create all kinds of projects at the fair, according to Abby Wagner, Dakota County 4-H coordinator. Adult volunteers are key to program delivery.

"In the past year, Dakota County 4-H has seen an increase of 3.8 percent in volunteers and that translates to an increase of 314 to 326," she said.

That is 1,062 youth from kindergarten through one year past high school who compete and learn with all kinds of fair projects ... youth leadership, animals, health, aerospace, crafts and fine arts, farm animals and horses, environmental exploration, photography and STEM.