By Betty Lawrence
ST. MARYS — For the past 50 years, boys and girls ages 9-19 have been learning the basics of electricity and how to use it safely by participating in the Fusebusters 4-H Club.
In this unique club, members make electric or electronic projects and then exhibit them at the Auglaize County Fair. The club is sponsored and operated by Midwest Electric Inc.
This year, 30 boys and one girl signed up for the club. Members have been meeting weekly at E-Z Campground Restaurant, located along U.S. 33 near St. Marys, to work on their projects. Nine adult advisers assist the various age groups. The Fusebusters was formed in 1954 by Earl Steinecker of St. Marys, a former Midwest general manager. Three generations of the Steineckers have since been involved in the club. One of the advisers, Matt Berry, works in customer service at Midwest.
“I’ve been an adviser for several years now. It’s part of my job, but I would do it anyway because it’s a lot of fun,” Berry said.
Most of the advisers and club members have been in the program for several years and the difficulty of members’ projects is determined by their age level.
“In the first year as a club member they learn the basics of electricity and how things run. The second year they get into wiring a little and the third year are actually into wiring, where they learn basic residential wiring. The four- and five-year members are into electronics, where they learn about circuits. Electrical safety is always taught too,” Berry said.
Some of these projects over the years have included motion detectors, robots, amplifiers and a remote control spy plane made last year by Jason Steinecker, grandson of the founder.
The Fusebusters program offers young people a good background for those wanting to go into engineering fields, Berry said.
“They learn information they will use all their lives,” he added.
A 50th anniversary celebration will be held tonight at E-Z Campground for current members and their families and former club members.
Members will present their projects, explain how they work and review their understanding of what they have accomplished.
“We take them from a practical use of batteries and wire and light bulbs to the next step of using 120 volts with light bulbs and home wiring to the advanced stage of electronics. They get a taste of each one of those fields and work with their instructors side by side,” said David Waltermire, who advises at the 4-5 year project level, when they start basic electronics.
“It’s just a lot of fun being an adviser. They start out with little knowledge of electricity and you can see the progress they make, year after year. And then once they are out of 4-H, you get to see how they grow and the career fields they go into. It’s really rewarding,” Waltermire said.