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West Virginia 4-H and the EQT Foundation enable WVU student to find academic success

Ethan Meighen works as a STEM ambassador during camp.

MORGANTOWN, W.Va. -- Throughout the past few years, 4-H programming has adapted to include robotics and other STEM activities in order to meet the growing demand for jobs related to these fields. While traditional activities are still offered, the West Virginia University Extension Service 4-H curriculum continues to give youths an opportunity to learn about emerging topics.

That’s where Ethan Meighen’s academic story started. He started in 4-H like many do, joining a club and then going to county and state camps. Songs in Council Circle complimented a diverse offering of activities to choose from – including Lego robotics, which he directly attributes to his career path.

The foundation of 4-H helped him flourish as a person first, and the leadership and work ethic instilled in him helped him receive the EQT Foundation’s West Virginia Students of Excellence scholarship, which awards him up to $18,000 per year to attend WVU. The former 4-H’er from Harrison County is getting ready to wrap up his freshman year as a student at the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources, pursuing his degree in computer science and biometric science.

Even once he arrived on campus, Meighen attributed a lot of his drive and success to lessons learned while in 4-H, and he still uses them as a foundation to further grow.

“My time in 4-H really brought me out of my shell and taught me leadership and discipline — two things that served me really well in the past,” said Meighen. “But it’s also helping me now as I balance friendships, classes and student organizations. Being involved in 4-H has helped me connect to so many people here at WVU.”

When Meighen signed up for his first Lego robotics program, he wasn’t sure what all it entailed. But on the suggestion from then WVU Harrison County 4-H agent, Brent Clark, the team came together and dug in to the scenario at hand. The problem to solve? Having the robot graft bones together to heal.

In the program, youths are presented a STEM-related problem to solve, then the robot they engineer, build and program goes around the game map to solve the problem at hand. The object is to get the robot to do it effectively and quickly, so it involves a lot of teamwork and critical thinking to maximize the design.

“Although I didn’t really know it at the time, that’s where I was introduced to biomedical engineering and it stuck. I learned how technology can help people live healthier lives, and using a creation of our own to do so was captivating,” said Meighen.

In addition to his studies, he’s also active in WVU’s collegiate 4-H club and works as a 4-H STEM ambassador during the summer months to help younger 4-H’ers and community youths involved in the Energy Express program learn about STEM topics and find the same spark he did.