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SIOUX CITY -- Dane Michael Rath may be a mechanical engineer in the making.

But the Morningside Elementary School third-grader's computer-generated Ferris wheel was currently on the fritz.

"We ran out of time but the Ferris wheel should be moving on its own," Dane said of the robotic project made entirely of Lego. "It's still cool, though."

Dane was just one of the afterschool 4-H Club's members who put on project demonstrations for peers and parents this week in Morningside Elementary School's lunch room.

For the past five weeks, the elementary school students have been working on such skill sets as healthy living, arts communications and STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics), said Maureen Connot, a youth outreach coordinator with 4-H and Iowa State University Extension and Outreach.

"On the sixth week, the kids get to show off what they had learned," she said.

During his once-a-week robotics class, Skyler Bell has discovered the intricacies of making a Lego alligator.

"The alligator's mouth opens and closes just like this," said the Morningside Elementary third-grader, mimicking the chomping reptile.

Meanwhile, Samantha Stile seemed more intrigued by a computerized bumble bee nicknamed Bee-Bot.

"Bee-Bot goes on a trail it's been programmed to follow," the third-grader explained as the computerized bee buzzed around a cardboard map of Morningside landmarks.

Even though Samantha and her crew programmed a toy bee, their club was actually designed to emphasize communication skills, Connot said.

"I think many of the units involved several different skill sets," she said. "Healthy living, which involves cooking, demands math skills since recipes require measurements. A science unit requires both hands-on skills as well as working on a team."

Budding engineer Logan Ruby certainly wants to pursue science when he grows up.

"I think that kind of stuff would be fun," said the fourth-grader as he seated Lego people inside his Lego Ferris wheel.  

Addison Gilmore, on the other hand, strongly preferred art over science.

"I like to paint," said the Morningside Elementary first-grader. "That's what I'd like to do when I grow up."

Playing with paper airplanes and paper rockets she made with her fellow 4-H Club members, Brenna Ocker seemed to hit upon the sweet spot between art and science.

"We decorated the paper surrounding the pop rocket," said the second-grader. "The paper doesn't really have anything to do with the experiment but we wanted to make it look nice."

Asked if she'd like to pursue a career in science, Brenna nodded her head in the affirmative.

"I'd like to grow up to be a doctor but not any type of a doctor," she said. "I want to be a doctor who only treats kids."

Oh, you mean like a pediatrician, right?

"Yeah, I'd like to be a pediatrician someday," Brenna said with certainty. "That's what I want to do."

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Food and Lifestyles reporter

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