Robotics
Boy Scouts Debut Robotics Badge

The BSA, in association with NASA, has a released a new merit badge for robotics, featuring one of the Mars rovers on the patch.

When people think of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), they envision activities like camping, knot-tying, and canoeing, but soon, they’ll need to add robot-building to that list. Scouts in 2011, through the introduction of the Robotics merit badge, now have the opportunity to design, build, and demonstrate a robot of their own creation.

The Robotics merit badge is part of the BSA’s new curriculum emphasis on STEM: science, technology, engineering, and math. The BSA focus on STEM takes a fun, adventurous approach to helping Scouts develop critical skills that are relevant and needed in today’s competitive world. The new merit badge is one of 31 STEM-related merit badges that Scouts can earn.

58 thoughts on “Boy Scouts Debut Robotics Badge

    1. Really? There are plenty of quite liberal BSA troops out there, and even more neutral troops with ALL SORTS of people in them. My experience with Scouts has been nothing but inclusive and non-pushy about religious beliefs. My troop was full of gay kids, atheists, socialists, etc. Discriminating against Boy Scouts is a terrible idea!

      1. “Discriminating against Boy Scouts is a terrible idea!”

        Boycotting and generally protesting against xenophobic organizations is not discrimination. Its like the KKK being angry that no one wants anything to do with their organization.

    2. Your small minded and petty intolerance for polite intolerance is duly noted. As an atheist I would be unwelcome in the BSA… I still refuse to visit bigoted vitriol on the boys who join an organization that on the greater balance seems to be a positive influence on their lives.

    3. I suppose you’d also ask people their religion/political beliefs when hiring so you can avoid hiring people associated with religious/political groups you don’t like. Because as we know, all Catholics support everything the Pope says. All atheists think like Sam Harris. And everyone who voted for McCain/Obama completely supports the Republican/Democratic platform.

      Sarcasm aside, this badge might actually be a great way for a boy to be exposed to someone different than himself. Maybe he’ll go to a competition (one of the optional requirements) and meet some smart/geeky/technical people. At the very least, he’ll have to talk with a merit badge counselor who’s interested in this stuff. It’s been my experience that such people tend to be more accepting of others than the average population. Maybe some of that will rub off.

      1. I saw the rover, but it took some looking (badge image is probably larger than actual size too). As a designer, I have to say the badge itself is not very well designed. Hopefully the same cannot be said for the robotics curriculum itself.

  1. I honestly was surprised to see this reference to BSA on Make magazine. The culture of gay hate and fear of atheism from that organisation seems so antithetical to the joyful spirit found in all other things Make Magazine. Why promote the organization here?

    1. I was a boy scout. As an agnostic, it was a little odd being in an overtly religious organization. (Which camp service to go to, Protestant or Catholic? I ended up going Protestant because the people near me were Protestant. It was… interesting.) I never noticed any homophobia. One thing that really stood out for me were the good aspects of scouting — building skills, learning to be self-sufficient, learning to push myself to accomplish challenging tasks without someone standing by to ‘take over’ if I had trouble. I’d definitely have no problem sending my son to scouts. The “culture of gay hate and fear of atheism” you refer to may be institutionalized at the national level but I never experienced it. I experienced dads and sons learning cool skills and earning merit badges!

    2. Well, that didn’t take long.

      How dare a private organization be allowed to exist as they see fit? Likewise, how dare the court system agree with that little constitutional “right of the people peaceably to assemble”?

      1. Of course a private organization has the right to exist as they see fit. That said, I have the right to hold such an organization in low esteem if I disagree with their membership policy. There are many, many things which I respect about scouting, and many people who are former scouts whom I admire, but that doesn’t change the fact that the BSA has a very clearly stated attitude towards openly gay men that I consider intolerant.

      2. People also have the right to boycott, protest, and socially isolate xenophobic organizations that are seen as offensive. The boyscouts are also not so private, since they still receive many benefits from the government and inevitably.. tax payers.

    3. This is a blog about making, and this post is relevant to the world of making. I choose to read this as a news post, rather than an endorsement of the organization.

  2. While I may disagree with many BSA policies, it is good to see them expanding their horizons to topics that are of interest to their members and Make readers. That makes it worth posting on the Make blog.

  3. Something to keep in mind:

    National/council and individual troops/packs are two totally different things. The higher ups worry about policies, insurance, atheism, gays, recruiting, and the like.

    Parents/adults at the pack/troop level worry about teaching their boys things like first aid, hiking, crafts, citizenship, being stewards of the environment, and the like. National/council does a lot of stuff that makes these people roll our eyes and wonder why they’re interfering with boys having fun and learning things.

    If you think Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts (and Venturers for older boys and girls) would benefit your child, find a pack or troop. You’d be surprised at the number of them run by people who don’t give a crap about the sexual orientation or religious beliefs of boys and adults. You could probably even find one run by a gay atheist. And you wouldn’t know it because that person is more concerned about producing a good program for the boys, not following stupid national policies that have nothing to do with what Scouting is all about.

  4. Glad to see BSA catching up, will look forward to robotics competitions, and maybe Maker events between troops and bringing it down into Cub Scouts. The Weblos are bored with pinewood & raingutter, and BSA (Cubs) loses a lot of kids at 3rd, 4th & 5th grade levels.

    Regarding the cultural mores, boys were abused and BSA was damaged. Scouting was a logical place for predators to hunt prey, so there was a protective bias before there was a reasonable and informed dialogue. BSA may have overcorrected at times and in places, and pivoted slowly, but I see within the local Troop and Pack a lot of tolerance and an important distinction being made between gay and predator. The safety guides are improving fast and there are good opportunities, such as Family Life Merit Badge, (required for Eagle) for adult guidance on differences among and within families.

  5. this new merit badge goes in and while others are phased out (blacksmithing and beekeeping, for example http://tweentribune.com/content/blacksmithing-beekeeping-out-robotics – although im not sure just when those fell by the wayside).

    While it’s good that the BSA is embracing STEM education, it is still sad that more fundamental aspects like blacksmithing and beekeeping have been eschewed. To me, it was those types of merit badges (including woodworking, wilderness survival, etc) that really made scouting such a valuable experience for me. Scouting was about learning what you could do with a minimum of technology. I’m getting a PhD in engineering now to see what you can do with ALL the technology, but I dont think that is scouting’s strong point. to sum up: if it came down to it i’d rather have blacksmithing in and robotics out.

    With regard to the cultural aspects of scouting i am really ambivalent. I’m glad to hear that on local levels it is apparently easy to find troops with more liberal cultures than the one i was a part of.

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My interests include writing, electronics, RPGs, scifi, hackers & hackerspaces, 3D printing, building sets & toys. @johnbaichtal nerdage.net

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