Microsoft teams with Brown County 4-H to inspire a local digital revolution

Published: Mar. 29, 2018 at 11:26 AM CDT
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Microsoft is partnering up with local 4-H members to empower youth in Brown County to shape the future with technology.

The partnership is called Tech Changemakers. Microsoft will provide Brown County 4-H with "digital skills and resources to make a positive community impact."

"This is really about how do we keep our children interested in being part of our community, doing their post secondary education here in Brown County with the new engineering school. All this kind of plays into the brain gain versus brain drain," said County Executive Troy Streckenbach.

Brown County is one of eight communities in the country to take part in this initiative.

"It's all around economic development and opportunities in rural America, and 4-H was one of those natural organizations that we are partnering with to really embrace not just people but organizations to empower them to do more," says Michelle Schuler, Manager, TechSpark Wisconsin Microsoft. "And more means doing more with technology."

Microsoft donated 25 Surface Pros to help the young people achieve those goals. Schuler says these skills are priceless.

"Digital skills is in every job, so we see higher wages, we see more opportunities, no matter if they choose a job in manufacturing, education, government, it still has an element of technology," Schuler says. "So the more kids we can get learning digital skills early on, the more success they'll have in their careers."

Riley Van Zeeland is one of those young people who will benefit from the partnership. He is a freshman who is a member of the Suamico Beaver Tails 4-H club.

"I want to just help invent new types of innovations, or something like that, or just work more on software and designing stuff like that," Riley tells Action 2 News.

Riley uses a simple coding program called Adafruit to help with these high-tech creations.

"It's not that hard. It's just... You take these blocks, which they have different things, and you connect them like a puzzle piece," Riley shows us.

The 4-H program also has an intro to Lego Robotics.

"They'll have you build the robots and have you code them with that same type of layout," Riley says.

Melinda Pollen is the Brown County 4-H Youth Development Educator. She says it's important to teach middle school students how STEM provides an opportunity for them.

"There's a lot of programs for elementary school kids in after school programs, but there seems to be a gap in how we connect and get that excitement from elementary school continued into high school," Pollen says. "So we're hoping this program will engage those middle schoolers to do STEM and STEM programming, so that when they get to high school, they can continue that path."

Pollen, Riley and a select group of 4-H members were invited to Seattle to see the Microsoft campus.

"We sat in on a couple of Microsoft meetings, met a lot of really important people, and the kids got to get onto the Microsoft campus, which is like that of a college campus," Pollen says. "So it was very, very exciting for them."

You do not need to be a 4-H member to get involved.

If you are interested, contact Melinda Pollen at 920-391-4654 or email

"i like technology. I built my own computer because I got bored one day"