AHS April Blog: How to Help Young People Understand the Connection Between the Local Foods Systems and Robotics

girl holding carrots and radishes

The Department of Agricultural and Human Sciences publishes a monthly blog written by students, alumni and faculty sharing important topics and helpful resources related to the fields of agricultural, extension and human science. In the April blog post, YFCS graduate student Crystal Starkes, discusses how to help young people understand the connection between the local foods systems and robotics.


In 2017, I was a new 4-H Agent taking youth to Iowa for the World Food Prize’s Global Youth Institute and had no idea what to expect. However, I knew it was going to be life-changing for not only the youth but for me as well. The Global Youth Institute is an opportunity for high school students to connect with Nobel Peace and World Food Prize Laureates interested in solving food security and other agricultural issues. The pressing issue is how to produce enough food to feed the 10 billion people living in our world by 2050. Farmers and agricultural businesses are working hard to create a way to support the growing population of people living in the world. In my opinion, it starts with our local food and teaching young people about where our food comes from. 

Local food is defined as the production and marketing of food to consumers (people who buy food) at a close distance. Most people purchase local foods at the local farmers’ market, you pick farms, farm stands, but some local foods can be found in a supermarket. 

The other connection is the growing use of robots and technology used in many different industries and becoming a part of our everyday life. Medical, manufacturing, space, military, and even agricultural companies are utilizing robots to help them solve solutions. Due to this utilization, the coding language of Python, Java, or basic word block programming is becoming more prevalent in the lives of our young people.

In my county 4-H program, I started teaching the members and community youth about coding and robotics to help provide them with the skills and experience to help prepare them for future careers. Due to the need and growth of technology in agriculture, I integrated and developed activities focused on agricultural technology and the local foods system called Supermarket Robots. In Supermarket Robots, students explore how robots are used in the world of agriculture and expand that knowledge to a grocery store or farmers market exploration project activity using various robot systems from Make Wonder’s Dash and LEGO© EV3/SPIKE Prime robots. The lesson peaks the interest of the youth because it teaches them something they enjoy like coding while learning about an important issue. 

While this activity is just one example, here are other ways to connect local foods and robotics for youth:

  • Show videos of how local farmers or industries produces are using technology and robots to produce more food.
  • Invite local farmers to share about their products and give the students a project to develop an application using a software that will allow consumers to purchase items online directly to them. 
  • Schools with community gardens could program a website demonstrating all of their work during the project.
  • Introduce the young people to agricultural industry professionals who actively utilize coding and technology to work in their career. 

The key is to connect their growing interest of coding and technology with something essential in their lives like food.