SUFFIELD, Ohio — She can recite Newton’s laws the way most people give out phone numbers.
She built a model of a trebuchet — a catapult-like device used in the Middle Ages to hurl stones — and can accurately predict the trajectory of the marble it throws. She even decorated the mini weapon with a picture of the “Father of Anatomy,” Andreas Vesalius, born in 1514.
When she turned 8, she wanted a “science-themed” birthday party, to include a History Channel program and science experiments.
Ava Lonneman is no ordinary 17-year-old.
The third-generation 4-H member from Suffield, Ohio, just east of Akron, is winner of the 2017 Youth in Action Pillar Award for Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) from the National 4-H Council.
She is being honored for organizing 4-H members in her high school STEM club, at Bio-Med Science Academy in Rootstown, to share their knowledge with more than 600 middle schoolers in surrounding Portage County.
Club members used the 4-H National Youth Science Day curriculum, Motion Commotion, to teach about such things as Newton’s laws and to show the consequences of texting when in motion. Their visits to middle schools were made possible by a $1,770 Ohio 4-H Foundation grant for youth STEM outreach.
While science has always interested her, “STEM isn’t just for super geniuses,” Lonneman said. “It wasn’t always easy for me. You just have to keep working on it.”
Hands-on learning is one feature that attracted Lonneman to 4-H. “I have ADHD (attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder). I figured out I get the most out of learning by doing,” Lonneman said. “That’s what 4-H is all about. Hands-on learning.”
Lonneman started in 4-H at age 8 as a Cloverbud, the 4-H group for children in kindergarten through third grade. Her mother, Rhonda, served as advisor for their Lucky Clovers 4-H club, which focused on science projects including rocketry, Ohio birds and Junk Drawer Robotics, and continues to serve as advisor for the high school STEM group at Bio-Med Science Academy.
“The ‘sciencey’ nature runs in my blood,” Lonneman said. Her parents are engineers and land surveyors — her father, Andy, built their Victorian-style home himself, in only nine months.
Being honored seems to run in the Lonneman family blood as well. Her sister Maria’s room is lined with ribbons and trophies, as is Ava’s. Her father and his employer will be honored during Ohio 4-H week, March 6-10, as a Friend of Ohio 4-H for volunteer work he organized at 4-H Camp Whitewood, with volunteers and a grant provided by Dominion East Ohio Gas Company.
“This family lives and breathes 4-H in our county and is constantly coming up with new ideas and ways to get youth involved in this great organization,” said Ashley Hughey, Portage County 4-H educator for Ohio State University Extension. OSU Extension operates the 4-H program in Ohio and is the outreach arm of the College of Food, Agricultural, and Environmental Sciences at The Ohio State University.
Ava Lonneman has served as a 4-H camp counselor with Hughey for three years. She is also in the National Honor Society and served on the 2016 Portage County Junior Fair Court.
As for the national award, Lonneman will receive a $5,000 scholarship for higher education and, for the next year, will serve as a spokesperson for 4-H STEM programming. She will be recognized at the 4-H Legacy Awards in Washington, D.C., on March 21.
When asked if she has a message for fellow teens, Lonneman said this: “What makes a true scientist isn’t intellect or knowledge. It’s character. If you persevere and push through, you will make it.”
Rhonda Lonneman (Ava’s Mother)