Robotics and Scouting is “a perfect combination,” Life Scout Nicholas Shunick says.
Nicholas and some of his fellow Boy Scouts from Troop 125 in Gainesville, Fla., will head to Houston next week to compete in the For Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology (FIRST, for short) Lego League Championship. His team is one of hundreds from around the world that will showcase their Lego robots at the four-day extravaganza.
These intricate robots are designed to perform tasks on an enclosed course. Also part of the competition, teams must identify a scientific problem (this year’s theme is the way people use water) and make presentations on how they’d solve the problem. The challenges prompt participants to work together and show good sportsmanship.
“It has given me the chance to develop teamwork and leadership skills at the same time,” Shunick says. “Both Scouts and FIRST Lego League emphasize core values that are important in life.”
Troop 125’s robotics team began two years ago thanks to the enthusiasm and mentorship of a group of older Scouts who participated in a high school robotics league. With the help of a district committee, which offered a Lego kit to the troop, and an Eagle Scout mentor, the “Platybots” were up and running.
These aren’t the Legos you remember dumping out of the big red bucket to play with. Lego robots can be equipped with infrared sensors, motors and bricks that can be controlled with a phone or tablet. Some robots require more than 300 steps to build. But once they’re built, they can perform some impressive feats, like scooping up items and placing them with precision.
Watch the Scouts practicing with their robot:
Within the first year, all members of the team had earned the Robotics merit badge. Check out the requirements here. In the second year, five members won a regional Lego League championship, earning a spot in the World Championship in Houston.
Erica Canova, whose son is on the team, has witnessed the team members grow and learn together.
“I think having the team within his Boy Scout troop has helped him develop a strong camaraderie with the other team members and strengthened his friendships within the troop,” Canova says.
The Platybots plan to help younger Scouts work on the Robotics merit badge this summer.
STEM activities in Scouting
Interested in incorporating science, technology, engineering and math into your Scouts’ activities? There are plenty of options.
- Tigers, for example, can visit a planetarium and learn about the universe as part of the Sky is the Limit elective adventure.
- Wolf Scouts investigate how air affects objects, like inflatable balls and paper airplanes, in the Air of the Wolf adventure.
- Bears build their own robots in the Robotics elective adventure.
- Webelos Scouts can conduct safe chemical reactions, launch model rockets and create electrical circuits in the Adventures in Science elective adventure.
Boy Scouts and Venturing
- Astronomy, Chemistry, Electronics, Engineering, Nuclear Science, Programming and Space Exploration represent but a few of the many merit badges that highlight STEM studies for Boy Scouts.
- A watch-and-learn STEM night is a great idea for a Tier I Adventure for Venturers.
- And don’t forget about the Nova and Supernova awards Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts and Venturers can earn. These awards incorporate cool activities for Scouts to learn about STEM fields.
Exploring, Sea Scouts and STEM Scouts
- Explorers can discover careers in engineering and technology, science and aviation.
- As they advance in rank, Sea Scouts must understand and explain to others weather patterns and the effects of pollution on the aquatic environment. Scouts can also pursue the electricity elective, in which they study battery cells and electrical current.
- STEM Scouts experiment and explore on the elementary, middle school and high school levels.