Hughes Network Systems, LLC (HUGHES), is an innovator in satellite and multi-transport technologies and networks for over 50 years. Its flagship satellite internet service, HughesNet®, connects families across the U.S. Recognizing the critical role STEM plays in driving innovation, including at its own company, prompted Hughes to enter into a multi-year sponsorship of 4H, America’s largest youth development organization that aims to inspire and educate the next generation of STEM students and leaders. During the pandemic, HughesNet-sponsored online STEM activities ® laid the essential groundwork for 4-H to pivot its entire online education initiative and scale it into a broader educational activity hub called 4-H at Home.
In 2021—a year into the pandemic, as well as a year following the launch of 4-H at Home—HughesNet fed the 4-H at Home content hub with a series of new hands-on online STEM activities, engaging students, parents and educators to meet their increased needs and preference for digital experiences. This included the introduction of activities such as Solar Oven S’mores, Code Your Communication, Wonderful Wetlands, Science Bug: Electrical Circuits, Slippery Stuff: Dancing Pepper—each generating thousands of views and new users.
At the onset of 2022, HughesNet-sponsored STEM education efforts once again set a new standard for 4-H, generating content under a wholly new immersive experience. This experience serves as a spark for imagination to inspire interest in STEM through hands-on learning, using materials readily available at home, during a time when most were stuck at home and burned out with staring at a screen. Launched in February during National Engineers Week, the HughesNet and 4-H Space Exploration Experience was the first-ever piece of 4-H programming that shifted beyond one-off activities to an all-digital, comprehensive and interactive learning management system.
As students, parents and educators adapted to a new normal throughout the pandemic and as the world continues to move toward more virtual environments, HughesNet leaned into its long-standing relationship with 4-H to develop high-quality, at-home learning STEM resources to supplement virtual K-12 curriculum. HughesNet and Cooperative Extension’s 4-H interactive e-learning and at-home classes helped mitigate both educators and parents’ difficulties with keeping students engaged, which had grown as a major concern through the pandemic. These activities assisted in spurring creativity and curiosity from the comfort of students’ homes.
These activities came to life via continued acceleration and diversification of content produced and promoted on 4-H’s education platform. From using materials around the house, to finding new activities within the digital ecosystem, HughesNet and 4-H were able to effectively build upon the work established at the onset of pandemic when 4-H at Home was launched. Relying on internet education also led to analog solutions that merge the digital and physical such as digital binary coding bracelets that allow kids to learn the basics of coding while creating art.
As the country managed against ever-changing expectations on how to best navigate the pandemic, 4-H similarly found itself needing to evolve and seek new ways to reach the next generation of leaders in a digital-first environment. This resulted in perpetual innovation of the 4-H education platform through the development of new content to match the new needs of youth, who lacked the in-person experiences to which they were accustomed.
For example, through the HughesNet and 4-H Space Exploration Experience, students in grade levels 3-8 are able to learn via interactive videos about a range of topics through the lens of a virtual astronaut who guided them through STEM learning activities. This program provides a host of virtual experiences young people and their families can learn from, such as the logistics of growing food in space, building a lunar terrain vehicle, collecting terrain samples, and understanding the role of satellites in connecting the unconnected. Launching this experience during National Engineers Week allowed HughesNet to simultaneously promote the importance of technical education and careers in engineering, math, and science.
Supporting these company commitments and efforts, Hughes launched a robust public relations and social media campaign that complemented the communications efforts of 4-H to draw in new users. HughesNet-sponsored content on 4-H’s education platform united high-quality resources with universal availability to supplement at-home curriculum with engaging learning projects and a virtual community of peers and positive adult mentors.
The Hughes and 4-H nationwide campaigns in 2021 and 2022 resulted in high engagement and strong visibility, as noted by these successes:
Additionally, the pioneering programming that led the shift to a comprehensive learning management system—the HughesNet and 4-H Space Exploration Experience—drove 14,812 sessions in just two weeks and social activity of more than 150,000 engagements.
In summary, HughesNet’s extensive support of 4-H at Home: