Slowly, the Boy Scouts have developed into a real training ground for budding scientists and engineers. Of the 126 current merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America, 31 of them fit under the STEM umbrella. But it’s the newest badge that is generating a lot of interest. This week, the BSA introduced the robotics merit badge, an ambitious set of requirements that really explores robotics as both a hobby and a career.
Joel Carter, Chief Marketing Officer for Innovations First International, the parent company of VEX Robotics, played a part in the Robotics merit badge’s development. “VEX contacted the BSA in 2009 to begin a dialogue about a trend we were seeing. Boy Scout troops and Explorer Posts were forming robotics teams and competing in the VEX Robotics Competition. In parallel, the BSA was pursuing a strategy of updating their program materials to stay in step with emerging high technology activities and interests of the scouts,” said Carter. “We were fortunate enough to be chosen as subject matter experts to consult on the merit badge requirements and booklet content.”
Among the requirements, Scouts will have to design, build and test a robot with at least two degrees of freedom and at least one sensor. Carter says the initial requirements called for boys to write their own code. But, “the analogy drawn is that scouts don’t have to fly an airplane to complete the Aviation merit badge. This opens up the badge to a wider range of scouts and lowers the barrier to entry to receive the badge,” said Carter.
The Robotics badge is the first merit badge to be featured in the new interactive merit badge resource center. According to the BSA, the Robotics merit badge should take about 14 hours to complete and they anticipate awarding 10,000 badges in the first year. The first group of scouts to complete the requirements and receive the first Robotics merit badges will be recognized at the VEX Robotics World Championship this coming weekend.
Now, let’s combine the Robotics badge with the Space Exploration badge and we’ll have kids kick starting the space program in no time.