Belinda Burkett, 14, demonstrates how her radio-controlled carousel 4-H project works. The Fostoria teenager took first place at the Ohio State Fair and received the Julie Miller Memorial Award, naming the eighth-grader Woman of the Year for electrical engineering. (Morgan Manns / For the Courier)


FOSTORIA — A Fostoria girl has taken her passion for electricity and her affection for fair-like amusements and combined them into an award-winning enterprise.

Belinda Burkett, 14, took first place at the Ohio State Fair for a radio-controlled project that was entered into Science Fun with Electricity for Engineering Excitement Day. Belinda also received the Julie Miller Memorial Award, naming the eighth-grader “Woman of the Year” for electrical engineering.

A member of the Seneca Pens & Friends 4-H club, Belinda’s passion for electricity began a few years ago when her dad, Dennis, showed her how to wire a home receptacle.

“I guess I gained an interest for it then,” she said.

She’s since taken that interest in electricity a bit further.

“Basically, I had a radio-controlled carousel. And I had an electrical DC motor soldered to my carousel and soldered to my receiver. So then when I would turn the dial on a transmitter, it will send electrical pulses to my receiver which will cause it to spin.”

Using wood, jumbo straws and dowel rods, this creative project does more than just spin. Like a true carousel, the animals spring into action as well.

“My animals were able to go up and down, like any carousel would,” Belinda said, explaining her menagerie is made from peel-off foam animal stickers.

On the other side of her award-winning project is a lesson in electricity.

“I have a way to show electrical resistance in a wire. Basically, I have a pump and it pumps water through a tube and then on those tubes I have two resistors which are full of hot glue which slow down the water to show what electrical resistance looks like in a wire,” she said.

Belinda’s project had to take first place at the Seneca County Fair before it was eligible to compete at the state level.

“She’s taken two projects every year and she’s won two blue ribbons at the county fair every year,” her mother, Abigail Burkett, said of Belinda’s four years in the 4-H club. The advisers are Linda Faber and Deena Galloway.

In addition to her carousel project, Belinda received an Outstanding award for her STEM Day project in All Systems Go (Vet Science 2.)

For taking first place at the state fair, she received a clock trophy — the highest award possible for 4-H participants.

And it wasn’t her first.

“Last year she won first place at the state fair as well for her electricity project,” Abigail added. “And that was a Ferris wheel she made.”

Belinda has come a long way from her first electricity project.

“It was a board with a pinwheel on it which was also hooked up to an electrical DC motor and then I had circuits there and I explained how the circuits work and how to close or open a circuit,” she said.

Electricity, of course, can be dangerous, but Belinda has never received a shock or poke from the power it supplies.

“But I have burned myself several times from a hot glue gun,” she said.

Belinda is considering different fields of electrical engineering as a career. But for now, the teenager is pondering what to do for next year’s 4-H project.

“I think I’m going to stay with the carnival theme. I just have to think of what can I do to top this year, which is going to be a challenge because I don’t know how that’s going to go yet.”