Young 4-H leader makes STEM fun and accessible

(BPT) – Cassandra Ivie is the founder and creator of the Incredible Machine, a curriculum and activities kit that teaches chemical, mechanical, software and electrical engineering to students in her community — and she is only 17 years old! Ivie is a 4-H leader from West Jordan, Utah, who brings hands-on STEM learning to youth in communities who may not otherwise have access to these types of projects. And her passion for STEM is contagious. She inspires those around her to become the next generation of STEM leaders our country needs. “It has been a privilege to lead these activities with local students to show them that STEM is accessible to everyone and that it is also a lot of fun. Seeing students’ faces light up when they have their ‘aha’ moment, is what it’s all about,” she said.

Ivie was recently selected as the recipient of the 2018 National 4-H Youth in Action Award by the National 4-H Council. The award recognizes 4-Hers who have used the knowledge and leadership skills they learned in 4-H to create a lasting impact in their communities. Every year 4-H recognizes youth in its four pillar areas of STEM, Healthy Living, Agriculture and Citizenship. Ivie was selected as the winner for the STEM pillar award, and ultimately as the National Winner for her embodiment of the 4-H principles of learning by doing, leadership and her lasting impact on her community. With the help of sponsors like HughesNet, which delivers satellite Internet access to rural communities, 4-H is able to recognize outstanding youth like Cassandra.

Cassandra’s journey began at a young age when she joined 4-H to pursue an interest in photography but through exposure to diverse topics in her club she discovered her passion for computer science. In 4-H, the largest youth organization in the U.S., students learn by doing and are encouraged to take on proactive leadership roles.

Research shows that exposure to education and information, especially for a student in grades K-12, often leads to increased participation in STEM programs. Cassandra recognizes how access to 4-H and other local resources impacted her and is working to address this in her local area through leading after-school programs in schools across the Salt Lake City area.

This accessibility is a vital piece to empowering young people in rural and urban communities to pursue STEM. It comes in many shapes from access to after-school programming, to relatable mentors and availability of high-speed Internet connections. Increasing access to even one of these can have a lasting impact on a child.

Since 2014, HughesNet and 4-H have partnered to help bring access to STEM education to more youth across the country. Their shared belief that all kids, no matter where they live, should have equal access to STEM continues to drive their work. Together they are working to prepare young people to be our future STEM leaders throughout the communities they serve while also uplifting exceptional young people, like Cassandra, who can serve as role models for kids across the country.

Part of Ivie’s success teaching diverse kids about STEM through her Incredible Machine kits is making it fun and accessible for everyone. 4-H showed her that STEM learning isn’t just coding or memorizing concepts, but it involves tapping into a kid’s imagination and showing them how to use STEM concepts to create new and exciting things in almost every topic imaginable. Ivie likes to joke that she “sneaks the STEM in with the fun” but in truth she is tapping into kids’ natural curiosity to equip them with the skills needed to do anything they can imagine. The fun comes from the sense of empowerment kids get from “doing” and is what STEM and 4-H are all about.

Interested in learning more or finding a 4-H club in your area? Visit