How to find STEM experts for your next Scout meeting or event

The fundamentals of STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) are everywhere.

So it only follows that STEM experts are everywhere, too.

Invite one of these experts to your next pack or troop meeting. See if they’ll set up a station at your camporee. Take your Scouts on a field trip to their place of work.

All you have to do is ask. For help on that, let’s turn to Dr. Richard Stone, a volunteer from Alabama who’s on the BSA’s STEM/Nova committee.

He shares some great tips in this guest blog post. 

Finding and using STEM resources in your community

By Dr. Stone

Summer is nearly over, units are recruiting new Scouts, and fun activities for the fall and winter are being planned. You are going to include some STEM activities, right? But where do you get your STEM experts?

Here are some ideas of places to start:

  • Government organizations
  • Colleges
  • Large companies
  • Smaller businesses
  • Hobbyist clubs
  • Fellow Scouters in your unit, district or council

Are you looking for field trips? What about:

  • Auto repair or transmission rebuilding shop. Seeing how the gears work to make a car go forward and reverse is fascinating. Seeing how a differential works is amazing. Once you check out the engine and drive train, you can explore how the computer makes the engine and drive train work easily and efficiently. This is engineering we use every day.
  • Insurance agents can explain to Scouts how mathematics is used to develop actuarial tables, what insurance is for, and how to determine how much to charge. Math is useful.
  • Check out a nearby airport and see the science of how airplanes fly and how the weather is measured with sensors and computers.
  • Visit a local fast-food restaurant. They use a lot of technology and psychology to figure out how to offer tasty food in a hurry with a reasonable experience.

What about guest experts to invite to your next event?

  • During a camporee, we offered a simulated crime scene event. A local university brought their forensic science students and faculty. They brought their equipment and supplies. We brought our Scouts. Everyone had fun.
  • The local amateur radio club showed how old and new technologies help us communicate for fun and when emergencies happen.
  • During a camporee, a challenge event used electromagnets and bits of iron hardware. Once the game was described, several Scoutmasters who were just watching joined the event to help run it and help the Scouts figure it out. Once you set up the event, a lot of adults will realize “I can do that” and they will be enthusiastic helpers.
  • For our next camporee, we are planning to offer water-bottle rockets. Our adults are already getting excited about how to do the science and how to make it into a fun event. Recruiting help from outside of Scouting or “pumping up” (pun intended) the attitude of your existing Scouters are both great benefits of a fun STEM program.

Important caveats:

  • If you recruit STEM experts not currently in Scouting, it’s your responsibility to ensure that the activities are age appropriate and follow the Guide to Safe Scouting. Pair them with a Scouter who can help them integrate into how we do things.
  • Brief outside STEM experts on the points of Youth Protection that may apply for their activities, and make sure they have Youth Protection training (they don’t need to be registered Scouters to take the training).
  • If they are bringing many experts and helpers and valuable equipment and supplies, consider whether you want Scouts to pay a small amount for attending.
  • Don’t forget to say thank you! A free lunch or a T-shirt can do the trick.

Offering STEM activities is easy to do. Find those resources within the Scouting family and give everyone a new fun experience. Find those resources from outside Scouting and recruit them to share their expertise and enthusiasm. Perhaps those STEM resources will become a bigger part of the Scouting family too.

What do you think?

What STEM-themed activities have worked for you?