Sarah Riley, a Harrison county 4-H alum, has forged her own path to make the most of her experiences in the 4-H program. Her involvement in the STEM program helped her to create a world of opportunities through 4-H, and later through her collegiate degree program in Biosystems engineering.
Riley grew up in the small town of Logan, Iowa where some of her very first 4-H experiences happened through her interest in First Lego League (FLL). This was a place where she could truly express herself and step outside her comfort zone. As a member of the Hyperstream robotics team, she had the opportunity to be involved in various competitions. With the county extension office located only one block from her house, Riley would often spend her days building robots and cultivating friendships with the county staff members. Outside of competitions, Riley continued to show her commitment to the robotics program by becoming a counselor and mentor at Harrison County robotics camps.
“I saw that the simple things that youth learned there got them excited to go back and participate in their clubs,” says Riley.
Riley developed an interest in clean water and agriculture when in high school and she took her experiences and background in the 4-H program to attend Oklahoma State University (OSU) majoring in Biosystems engineering. As an undergraduate, Riley served on the Presidential Leadership Council, and as the Vice President of the American Society of Agricultural and Biosystem Engineers (ASABE) student chapter at OSU. Through her collegiate involvement, Riley credits her 4-H experiences with helping her to develop her leadership potential and helping her to think outside the box.
“There is no difference between men and women in the workforce,” Riley says. “I believe that if you are willing to work hard in your field, race and gender don’t matter.”
Riley has been conducting her own research on reducing annual grain losses. She worked to create an “electronic nose” that would be a cost effective solution for locating mold in canola seed grain bins. She will be continuing this research while pursuing her master’s degree in sensor technology.
Riley is a great role model for young women who want to be involved in the STEM program. She tells younger 4-H members to not be afraid to get involved! New experiences can be scary, but when you get to the end, it is worth every step along the way. To read Riley’s full story, check out this summer's FourWord. To receive the newsletter regularly, click here.