Bryan on Scouting

Robotics merit badge launch includes all-new interactive resource center

The age of robots in the Boy Scouts of America has begun.

No, the BSA isn’t planning to replace Scoutmasters with androids. At least not that I’ve heard of.

I’m referring to today’s launch of the Robotics merit badge. It’s the latest example of how Scouting embraces the interests of modern boys while preparing them for careers in science, technology, engineering, and math—fields collectively known as STEM.

Perfect timing, too. Saturday marked the start of the second-annual National Robotics Week, and the VEX Robotics World Championship begins on Thursday. And then, on April 29, NASA will carry 100 Robotics merit badges into space aboard Space Shuttle Endeavour.

Robotics is the BSA’s 126th currently available merit badge, and it joins the recently introduced Inventing and Geocaching merit badges as proof that the BSA knows what 21st-century guys like.

That was the message from Matt Myers, who leads the BSA’s STEM initiative, in an interview with the Associated Press last week.

“Last century, camping was an essential survival skill. Sometimes, you might have had to live outside in the 1900s to survive. We view STEM as an essential survival skill in the 21st century,” he told the AP. “We’re just trying to keep relevant with what kids need to learn.”

And robots combine fun and education in an exciting way, says Ken Berry, assistant director of the Science and Engineering Education Center at the University of Texas at Dallas.

Berry told the AP, “There’s a low floor and a high ceiling with regard to robotics. It’s very easy to get into, and you can go a long, long way.”

But how do Scouts—and Scout leaders, for that matter—enter the fun, mysterious world of Robotics?

That’s easy. Bookmark the Boys’ Life Robotics page, an interactive resource center for Scouts and Scout leaders.

Scouters, the site is where you’ll find resources for robotics kits, a list of merit badge requirements, and answers to your Scouts’ questions about the merit badge.

Your Scouts will enjoy games, photos of other guys’ finished robots, and robot-themed jokes (Q: “What did the man say to his dead robot?” A: “Rust in peace.”).

Robotics merit badge and the Boys’ Life Robotics page are sure to be a hit.

I do have one complaint, though: Why wasn’t this merit badge available when I was a Scout?