Constructing a Mason-jar lamp was one of the very first projects Newburgh teen Sean Flynn tackled upon joining 4-H, the nation’s largest youth-development and youth-mentoring organization. It spawned a penchant for electronics, and today, after eight years of making everything from a sundial to a ham radio antenna to a cigar-box-guitar at the club, the 15-year-old has been granted the 4-H Innovator Award for his leadership efforts and dedication to STEM (science, technology, education, math).
Although Flynn has relished a wide range of hands-on activities such as cooking, fly-tying, and photography throughout his years at 4-H, he is most passionate about “building things.” A particular interest in robotics led him to join the 4-H niche group the Mindbreakers, competing in the Hudson Valley FIRST Lego League last year. “I learned a lot and had fun. I’m also in my second year on a competitive VEX Robotics team,” he says. Additionally, Flynn is training for the CyberPatriot competition, in which students with an interest in cybersecurity have six hours to fix flaws on the virtual image of an operating system. In between all these activities and his classes, Flynn also found the time to earn his amateur radio license, student pilot certificate, and is now serving in the Orange County Cadet Squadron of the Civil Air Patrol.
“The biggest myth is that you have to be a ‘geek’ or a brainiac to be interested. STEM is all around us and if you’ve ever been curious how materials you use every day are made, or how something you use works, how a plane stays in the air or how we can communicate around the world and even into space,” he explains, “then the answers are there for you in STEM.”
College is a few years away, yet Flynn is already contemplating a career in electrical engineering or aviation, perhaps melding the two. But for now, he’s most amped to head to Washington, DC in early October for 4-H National Youth Science Day to experiment with “the forces of motion and distracted driving.”
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