Missouri council empowers Scouts to become incredible innovators

With 3D printers, laser engraving equipment and computer-aided design software and machines at the Sinquefield Invention Lab, Scouts in Missouri’s Great Rivers Council get to make some pretty cool stuff.

“In terms of things created, there are honestly too many to count,” says Thomas Yang, council activities and program director.

A few years ago, council board member Jeanne Sinquefield, Scoutmaster Steve Goldstein, and Steve’s son Sam outfitted a 24-foot trailer with equipment that could be wheeled to schools, council events and Scout camp — a mobile invention lab to highlight Scouting STEM activities. Today, what started as a single trailer is now two trailers and multiple climate-controlled buildings at the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation in Gravois Mills, Mo.

In October, the camp hosted the council’s second Invention Jamboree. Scouts flew drones, built robots, learned how to solder and weld, and watched a robotic dog walk around camp.

The three-day event gave Scouts the chance to try STEM-related activities at a state-of-the-art facility.

More than STEM

With some of the lab’s high-tech equipment, you’d think everything would focus on inventing, electronics and engineering, but the Sinquefield Invention Campus offers so much more. The facilities can cater to almost 30 merit badges, including Salesmanship, Woodwork and Farm Mechanics.

Leaders teach youth not only how to make something, but also how they can use it in the real world. So, they teach about patents and trademarks, and how to be business leaders in their communities.

“Scouting is one the best organizations to invest in,” Sinquefield says. “A critical component is the widespread use of volunteers. Our goal is to grow Scouts and Scouters, including finding and growing future inventors.”

Sinquefield and her husband’s charitable foundation was the linchpin for the lab’s launch. The 6,000-square-foot invention lab, blacksmithing and welding building, woodworking building, and the new skills/trade lab at the camp hosts invention weekend events throughout the year: Cub Scout NOVA family camps, Order of the Arrow lock-ins and events for Explorers and adults.

“Many of the Scouts who come to our camp have little to no experience with our cutting-edge equipment,” Yang says. “However, once they master the knowledge, you notice that their confidence goes up significantly. And from there, the ideas come forth.”

Weekend Jamboree

For the Invention Jamboree, the camp set up a dozen stations, each focused on a different activity. The stations included blacksmithing, welding, climbing, drones, robotics and design, among others.

The stations were organized into three different groups, each named after an inventor who was born in Missouri — George Washington CarverEdwin Hubble and James Fergason. The Scouts chose a group, all of which included time in the Invention Lab.

Four universities also brought exhibits. State Technical College of Missouri set up a virtual excavator for Scouts to try; Saint Louis University professors and students taught how GPS information is used in search and rescue operations; a Missouri University of Science and Technology professor and students showed how robots help in studying bridges; and University of Missouri students displayed the robot dog, which delivered sandwiches and made an appearance during the closing ceremony.

About Michael Freeman 446 Articles
Michael Freeman, an Eagle Scout, is an associate editor of Scout Life and Scouting magazines.