Reflections of GEC University of Scouting
• Mark Eschbach
This year is our final year of Cub Scouts with my Den, so for this year in UoS I wanted to begin exploring other ways to serve the unit(s) my son will be attached to. I’m not opposed to contiuing a leadership role however it feels like a roll of the dice in regards to the what the unit he chooses will need. We’ve tried pretty hard to avoid influcencing his decision; which has been an interesting expiriment in terms of extracting opinions. Anyway, I’ve only slated a half hour for this. I suppose I should come back to that idea later. I know the district advancement chair has several times mentioned they coudl alway use more merit badge counselers.
For the first session I took the Merit Badge Counselor Training course. Emphasis was primairly on the teaching methods and establishment of mentorship with the youth. The course instructor also pushed we should not sign up for more than 8 merit badges to counsel in. Interesting registration is at the district level but reasonable also. Requirements to be a Counselor were fairly straight forward: Adult app, youth protection training, and some qualifying knolwedge which allows you to mentor youth. The qualifications reasonably are dependent upon the particular subject of the Merit Badge. An interested Scout goes through a discussion session and is recommended a Counselor. The Scout takes the signed blue card to the Counselor who will track requiremenst on it, then sign the opposite side when completed. In general Merit Badges follow the standard Boy Scout approach to advancement: Learning, Testing, Review, Recognition. I think I’m qualified to Counsel in Computer Programming; I’m not sure much beyond that.
Next up on my schedule was GPS Navigation and Trip Planning. The session leader provided all sorts of interesting practical expierence on his trips. The primary gem of knowledge was CalTopo. Apparently it was originally built by a Bay Area Rescue guy to make life easier for the rescue teams. It’s got a lot of nice features for taking Scouting units out. Including being able to draw paths which snap to path segments. The system also provides information about trail height and general topography. I was unaware there were two coordinates systems in contemporary use: Latitude + Longitude (I should look this up at some point); and UTM. UTM is based on quadrilaterals projected on the sphere identified by X,Y gride coordinates then some unit offsets from the grid. I need to check into NAD27, a mapping survey from 1927 which a lot of maps were constructed of. Later surveys include WGS84 from 1983-194. Much more accurate for contemporary usage. CalTopo has both surveys. Additionally the system can generate custom maps for searching, with QR codes to automatically open. Interestingly there aren’t very many forums on-line where units may share their trip expierences. In the spirit of “be prepared” the instructor emphasised the usage of both map + compass and GPS. Always good to ahve backups.
STEM for Boy Scouts sounded fun however there was a strong emphasis on delegating to the Council’s comittee to work towards earning the badges. Cool the STEM program was sponsored by Exxon Mobile. Many aspects of the program ephasis keeping notes on past attempts to improve the performance of different expiriments. Unforunately most of the recommendations I heard had STEM outside of camping, hiking, and other troop activites. I would be really interested in finding ways for the Scouts to apply the knowledge on trips. I did appreciate the instrucotr’s desire to try to keep robots away from STEM. Although robots may provide a decent platform for learning programming, electronics, and mechanical fabrication, I do feel as though much of that isn’t applicable in a Scout’s time in the outdoors.
Geocaching was an interesting course I could definitely find applicable to the Scouting expierence. Since my Den is organizing a trip to the Marin Headlands to go geocaching for one of their requirements I felt like this might help me be servant leader to understand more. I’ve been geocaching with friends before; however it’s been a while. Very knowledagable were the session leaders, with lots of history about the evoluation of the game. They had setup a number of temporary caches, handed us some GPS devices, then giggled as we scratched our heads at where they hide the caches. Very cunning community to hide some of those caches. I feel better prepared to provide guidence when required.
The last session of my day was the Robotics Merit Badge. The pinicle of the Merit Badge is a project where the Scout builds a unique configuration of hardware and software to solve some goal. The session leader recommend a single kit per Scout as it encournges them to dive deeper into the details. Lego Mindstorm was the recommend platform to balance mechanical, sesning, and computation; although the graphical language to describe the programs look crazy to me. Custom designs usign things like Ardiunos were discourage due to the learning curve. An interesting question posed was “Do the robot need to be autonomous or can they be RC?” The Session leader believed there was nothing in the requirements which demand the robot be autonomous. A large part of the Merit Badge is keeping an Engineer’s notebook journaling their path through the badge.
With that I’m out of time. These were fun and definitely worth considering in the future. I was proud of my pack’s highest attendance in years. I wish to see more from my district next year!