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DeKalb County students enter unique projects in annual 4-H fair

July 20, 2017 GMT

SYCAMORE – Cody Sell, 12, who is homeschooled in Sycamore, entered the computers category of the 4-H General Project Show with a website he coded and designed from scratch after taking an online HTML class.

“I really do have a love for programming computers, so I think it’d be a good thing to pursue,” he said. “I might get into Javascript, which is a more detailed programming language.”

Students 8 to 18 from all over DeKalb County showed off their unique hobbies and skills in the annual show Wednesday and Thursday at the DeKalb County Farm Bureau Building, 1350 W. Prairie Drive.

Participants could enter a variety of categories, such as photography, wood work, gardening, cooking, aerospace, animal science, welding, sewing, interior design, visual arts, and health.

Judges critiqued the students’ work and provided individual conferences to talk about what was learned and what could be improved. Blue ribbons were given to students who met the expectations of the project.

The best entry in each category was awarded with a plaque, and the best entries overall are be chosen as delegates to represent DeKalb County at the Illinois State Fair in mid-August.

Cody’s website includes pictures, video and basic information about his two dogs. The judge’s feedback included tips for designing his next site, such as making sure text and hyperlinks are easy to read against the background.

“I like the challenge that [making a website] gives and how it engages your mind,” Sell said. “How you have to think about what you’re doing and how you have to be careful what you’re doing. I like the feeling of success after it actually works.”

Sell said he has entered the show in previous years with projects in the animal science and electronics categories. One such project was an electromagnet attached to a crane made of Legos that picked up paperclips.

“I just try to think outside the box, make a few more projects that don’t seem so regular, but aren’t like completely wacky,” he said.

Jared Clausen, 14, a freshman at Sycamore High School, designed and built a wooden plant stand for his 4-H show project. His entries in past years have included smaller pieces such as a birdhouse, a cutting board and a hammock stand.

“I started by cutting out all the pieces of wood and making sure everything fit together, and it ended up taking me about a week and a half to finish,” he said.

Clausen said he chose to build the stand because it was something his mother needed around the house, and his father and brothers also inspired his interest in woodworking.

“My dad and my brothers have the same passion for woodworking, and I decided to try it out and it became my hobby,” he said.

Nicole Groezinger, 4-H program coordinator, said participants benefit not only by learning to communicate by explaining their project to judges, but they also can pick up a love of learning.

“It teaches them how to learn,” she said. “So you’re interested in something, what do you need to do in order to further yourself in that type of position, as far as setting goals and accomplishing those goals? It really is an independent learning process.”