Skip to main content

Rocket scientist credits 4-H in discovering her lifelong passion

Dirt 4-H club meeting doing a Lego robotics activityA lifelong 4-H'er, Shannon Adams, credits West Virginia University Extension’s 4-H program with helping her discover her dream career and teaching her the skills it took to get there.  

Adams is a graduate of the Benjamin M. Statler College of Engineering and Mineral Resources with a dual bachelor’s degree in mechanical and aerospace engineering and a master’s degree in aerospace engineering, but her interest in rocketry started long before that at a 4-H club when she was only nine years old.  

Adams was introduced to 4-H by a family friend who was a 4-H leader and suggested that she join her local club. She attended her first 4-H club meeting, and the rest is history.  

“The first time I attended county camp was when I was nine years old, and I loved it because I enjoyed spending time outdoors and with my friends,” Adams said. “There were STEM activities at camp, and I participated in bottle rockets. I ended up going to the national rocketry competition through the 4-H program, which sparked my interest in becoming an engineer.” 

Adams is now a propulsion engineer and the head of research and development in the technology development department at Allegany Ballistics Laboratory, operated by Northrop Grumman in Mineral County. She teaches STEM classes for her local West Virginia 4-H program in Mineral County, where she works with rocketry projects, such as building air powered rockets, bottle rockets and model rockets. Adams ensures that the kids get the opportunity to build rockets in an easy and safe way.  

Throughout her life, Adams has served in various roles for 4-H. While in college, she was a 4-H Extension camping instructor and the WVU Collegiate 4-H club president, where she coordinated the National Collegiate 4-H Conference. She has completed the 4-H Charting program, is a 4-H All Star, 4-H camp counselor and helps coordinate the Cloverbuds day camp in Mineral County. 

Adams recently became a 4-H club organizational leader for the club in Mineral County. After the previous leader left, she wanted all the youth in the county to have the opportunity to experience a 4-H club. 

“Shannon is one of those volunteers that you can trust to fully manage and take care of a program,” Margaret Miltenberger, WVU Extension 4-H youth development agent in Mineral County, said. “We need more mid-level 4-H volunteers because they are the ones who can really make a difference with expanding the program to reach more youths and provide quality programs.”  

I have a nine-year-old daughter and a seven-year-old son involved in 4-H, and I want them to love 4-H from a young age and have the same experience I had because I know the positive long-term effect the program can have on you, Adams said. I have already seen the growth and impact 4-H has had on both of my kids. For example, now they are comfortable with public speaking, when before they were too shy to do that. I want to make sure my kids and all the kids in the county can have that experience and opportunity to grow. 

The 4-H program gives youths the opportunity to learn a variety of topics and skills. Adams credits 4-H for teaching her skills that she has been able to use throughout her life and career, including public speaking, leadership skills and goal planning.  

“4-H has positively affected me because it is how I chose my dream career and where I learned valuable skills that have helped me to be more successful,” Adams said. “4-H was a place where I could intentionally learn those skills and practice them in a safe environment before I applied them in bigger settings.” 

Throughout her life, Adams remained involved in the 4-H program because it gave her the opportunity to hold leadership roles, accomplish tasks – whether it was a service project or a fun event – and leave a positive impact on youth in the program the same way 4-H benefitted her.   

“My daughter is always asking me if her friends can come to a 4-H event, so I am constantly reaching out to parents telling them that 4-H is a way for their kids to create fun memories that they will have forever,” Adams said. “4-H is a good opportunity to start a journey of branching out little by little and leading to bigger and bigger things.” 

Contact your county WVU Extension office to learn more about how to get involved in 4-H clubs and activities in your area. 

To learn more about 4-H activities in your community and keep up with the latest in West Virginia 4-H news, follow @WestVirginia4H on Facebook and @wv_4h on Instagram. 

If you want to learn more about WVU Extension, visit or follow @WVUExtension on Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and Instagram.   



CONTACT: Sophia Darmelio 

Marketing Strategist 

WVU Extension