State College, PA - Centre County - Central Pennsylvania - Home of Penn State University

4-H Robotics Team Awes Grange Fair Visitors

by on August 24, 2014 7:00 AM

Makenzie Thompson instinctively backed away from the machine moving toward her – an imposing work of metal, exposed gears, wires and blinking lights.

When Penn State engineer Jason Terosky handed her the controls to the robot, her wariness was instantly replaced by excitement. She took the controller – which looked like it might belong to a video game, not a robot – and pressed the button Terosky pointed at.


A whiffle ball flew from an air-powered cannon mounted to the machine, and a member of the Centre County 4-H robotics team across the street leapt up to try and catch it.

James Steffan, a student at Penn’s Valley Area High School, helped build the machine on display at the Grange Fair on Saturday over the course of six weeks with other members of the 4-H team to compete in an international robotics tournament.

“I really enjoyed being able to design something like this and then watch it come to life,” Steffan says.

Terosky explains that while 4-H may be primarily known for educational efforts related to agriculture, the youth organization has been expanding into fields related to science, technology, engineering and mathematics. He says this is a logical extension of their dedication to teaching children across the country.

“The U.S., and the world in general, needs people with capabilities in engineering and mathematics,” Terosky says. “We need to make sure our children stay abreast of these technologies to keep the world going.”

Steffan says before he joined Fatal Error (the Centre County robotics team), he’d done some computer programming and smaller building projects, but never anything like this. 

“I thought I might help do some electrical work on this project, but I also ended up learning a lot of mechanical stuff and how to communicate in a team,” he says.

Chris Crestani says she’s been coming to the Grange Fair for close to 30 years. Though the 4-H club always has a display at the fair, she says she’s never seen anything like this.

“My grandson asked me how they did that, how they put it together,” she says. “And I said, ‘I don’t know how they did it.’ I’m very impressed by them.”

Steffan says people came up to him all Saturday afternoon at the fair, wanting to know more about the robot and the team. An aspiring computer scientist, he was happy to explain and hopefully inspire interest in robotics and science.

“To have people come up to me and say ‘Oh, wow! That’s so cool!’ is just a really cool feeling,” he says.


Mount Nittany Conservancy Looking for Marathon Volunteers

Penn State Football: Despite Volcanic Rumbles It's Still Full Speed Ahead For Dublin

Countdown To Dublin: Inside Training Camp, Linebackers Edition

Grange Fair Brings Hot Sauce Vendor a Dedicated Following

Moving Into Penn State Goes Smoothly for Students and Families

Photo Gallery - Centre County 4-H Robotics Team robot at Grange Fair

Michael Martin Garrett is a reporter and editor for who covers local government, the courts, the arts and writes the Keeping the Faith column. He's a Penn State alumnus, a published poet and the bassist in a local indie rock band.
Next Article
Penn State Football: Despite Volcanic Rumbles It's Still Full Speed Ahead For Dublin
August 23, 2014 6:07 PM
by Ben Jones
Penn State Football: Despite Volcanic Rumbles It's Still Full Speed Ahead For Dublin
Disclaimer: Copyright © 2018 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

order food online