The building has seen prize-winning Angus steers, gorgeous dairy cows and summer days so hot that exhibitors’ immaculate show outfits turned into damp rags.
On Tuesday, the stock pavilion at the Rock County 4-H Fairgrounds was home to something new and unexpected: drones.
For the first time, drone flying was one of the judging categories at the 4-H Fair.
“National 4-H wants to get more with STEM—science, technology, engineering and math,” said Jon Swenson, superintendent in the Mechanical Sciences Division. “One of the things they were promoting was drones, and a lot of kids have these as toys.”
Only six kids signed up for the category this year, but that’s because it was added at the last minute, Swenson said.
He expects to see many more kids sign up next year, and here’s why: As 4-H projects go, it’s relatively inexpensive. Most of the drones in the competition cost $40 to $80. While that might seem like a lot, think about the amount of money a child spends on buying and feeding an animal.
Also, it’s a skill any kid can learn and one that keeps them active and engaged. You stop paying attention for a second, and your drone will end up in a tree—or on the top of the garage door in the stock pavilion.
But more about that later.
The drone category is called “mini aircraft,” and it can include other small flying aircraft such as small helicopters. All flying objects must be less than 1 foot across.
Participants had to fly their drones through an obstacle course that included four tall pylons, two hoops, a finish gate and a landing pad.
Judges deducted points for touching the ground or a pylon, going out of bounds and for complete loss of control. Pilots could earn a range of points for hitting certain areas of the bulls-eye rings on the landing pad.
Jayden Mosley, 9, of Newark-Beloit 4-H navigated the course in 1:24 the first time, but he lost time by missing a hoop, and his landing wasn’t perfect. His second try was 1:44, but his landing was spot on, and he made the hoops.
Along with drone flying, he also entered a Lego diorama and a volcano in the Mechanical Science Division. He also has built rockets and participated in the bike trials and bike rodeos.
He’s had his drone for six months. He bought it at Hobby Lobby.
“My dad had to fix his RC (remote control) car, and I got my drone,” Jayden said.
He and his dad, Joe Mosley, do a lot of projects together.
The most difficult part of the day’s course?
“Probably getting it through the hoops and turning it to do the 360 because that’s on throttle,” Jayden explained.
The drone controller has two throttles, one to control up and down movement and the other to control forward and backward movement.
The up-and-down throttle also controls the 360-degree spin. A slip of the control could mean an uncontrolled trip down.
Jayden had hoped to demonstrate a flip during the competition, but organizers eliminated that skill from the course.
When a reporter asked for a demonstration, he obliged. However, in the process, the drone ended up on top of the stock pavilion’s open garage door. We’re not talking about home-garage height. Think more like semi-trailer truck garage height.
His mom, Julie Mosley, panicked. The reporter panicked, wondering if she would have to put an $80 drone on her expense account.
Jayden did not panic. He climbed to the top of bleachers, stood on his tip-toes and maneuvered the drone safely to the ground.
Give that boy a blue ribbon.