Rockets, robots and recruiting: Maryland Exploring post finds a winning combination

Post 1010 finished in first place at the 2021 UAS4STEM Search and Rescue Challenge, a drone event.

Whether in the air or on the ground, the young people of Exploring Post 1010 know how to build impressive machines. 

Their rockets, quadcopters and robots regularly qualify for — and even win — national competitions.

So it’s no surprise that Exploring Post 1010 is itself built like an impressively functioning machine. Under the guidance of advisor Bob Ekman, the post boasts more than 30 youth members who represent a handful of high schools in the Rockville, Md., area.

The winning formula isn’t some patented secret. It goes like this: keep it interesting, keep it immersive and keep it fun.

When you do, things like recruiting come naturally. And the awards? Those will come, too. 

In June, Post 1010 finished second in the 2021 American Rocketry Challenge. 

At the AMA USA4STEM Drone competition in July, Post 1010’s team finished in first place, winning $2,500. For that event, the Explorers had to fly their drone both autonomously and using a remote controller. They needed to locate a series of targets, none of which the team members could see from the ground, and drop water balloons filled with paint onto the bull’s-eye.

“We are successful because we stay on task, put in the time and have knowledgeable mentors,” Ekman says.

Here’s what else we learned about the post’s winning formula.

Post 1010’s drone team is nicknamed Some Assembly Required.

Embracing Exploring

Post 1010, which was formed in 1997, is an Engineering & Technology Exploring post. 

Engineering & Technology is one of a dozen different career fields that young people can experience in Exploring, the program for young people ages 10 to 20 that’s an affiliate of the Boy Scouts of America. Other fields include Fire & EMS, Health Care and Law Enforcement.

Ekman says most of his Explorers stay in Post 1010 until they graduate high school, meaning the majority of his post’s recruiting efforts are aimed at replacing the graduating seniors with high school freshman. 

He uses two primary recruiting tactics:

  • Working with career counselors at area high schools to encourage STEM-savvy students to consider the program 
  • Asking his Explorers to recruit their friends and classmates through word of mouth

Membership in Post 1010, when paired with these students’ natural curiosity and enthusiasm for innovation, serves as a springboard for college and careers.

“The post gives them hands-on project experience and is great fun,” Ekman says. “Most of the post members take on engineering and science college degrees and then go on to become engineers and scientists.”

Tools for success

Each young person in Post 1010 competes in one or more “engineering projects,” each aligned with a national or international STEM competition. Their choices are:

  • Build and fly a mid-size rocket for the American Rocketry Challenge
  • Build, program, test and document a robot for the FIRST Tech Challenge
  • Build, program, test and document two robots to autonomously complete scoring challenges for the Botball Educational Robotics Program
  • Build and fly a mid-size quadcopter through a competition course for the Academy of Model Aeronautics USA4STEM Drone competition

Each project team includes eight to 12 members who meet at least weekly to design, build and test their creations. When a competition nears, they often meet three times a week or more.

“The tenacity of the teams through many long months of the pandemic has proven to be their strength,” Ekman says. “Add to that the dedication of several adult leaders in providing the logistics so the teams could meet and succeed in their challenge.”

Ekman is the overall advisor for Post 1010 and mentor for the Botball team, but he doesn’t do it alone. Tom and Beth May mentor the drone team, Vince Camobreco guides the rocketry team and Neal Perkins serves as mentor for the FIRST robotics team. 

Beyond Exploring

While an Engineering & Technology Exploring post provides an ideal structure for Ekman and his fellow volunteers to deliver this program, the activities of Post 1010 aren’t exclusive to Exploring.

Take rocketry, for example. Building and launching model rockets has been a beloved activity in Cub Scout packs and Scouts BSA troops for years.

“Rocketry projects are relatively easy and inexpensive,” Ekman says. “Everyone loves shooting rockets into the air and the challenge of recovery.”

Ekman enjoys watching his Explorers compete in and win rocketry competitions, but he’s rooting for other Scouting units to have success as well. 

In the true spirit of Scouting, he invites other volunteers to contact him if they ever want advice.

“The rocketry program fits well with Scouting,” he says. “Anyone interested in starting a rocketry program in their troop should give me a call.”

About Bryan Wendell 3200 Articles
Bryan Wendell, an Eagle Scout, is the founder of Bryan on Scouting and a contributing writer.