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Bench Talk for Design Engineers

Bench Talk


Bench Talk for Design Engineers | The Official Blog of Mouser Electronics

STEM Scouts: Boy Scouts of America’s New STEM Initiative (That’s for Girls Too!) Mike Parks

Science. Technology. Engineering. Mathematics. The STEM Movement, along with the Maker Movement, have been transformative forces in our modern society. Both have rekindled a spirit of “can do” optimism and excitement for exploring the unknown that has lain dormant for many of us. The Maker Movement has retaught us that getting your hands dirty and having a do-it-yourself mentality is not just pragmatic or thrifty, it is also just plain fun.


By comparison, the STEM Movement (though I prefer the term STEAM, whereby we add a little Artistic pizzazz to our STEM pursuits) has focused on breaking down the perceived “professional priesthoods” that hold back many from the scientific, technological, engineering, and mathematical career fields. STEM has shown us that while yes, these fields are intellectually challenging, they are not impossible nor are they devoid of fun. That’s right, I used the F-word. STEM ought to be fun in addition to being important as a source of economic growth and constant improvement of the human condition.


That’s why it should come as no real surprise that the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) has announced a new division of its organization, STEM Scouts. Having been piloted in parts of Tennessee, the STEM Scout program is ready to rollout to an additional twelve councils this year. The program will serve youth from third grade through twelfth grade. Also of keen interest to me as an Eagle Scout and father of a budding geek daughter: the program will be for boys and girls. I think that embracing diversity is incredibly smart on the part of the BSA and will serve both the organization and society well in years ahead.


Instead of packs or troops, local units will be known as “laboratories” or “labs” for short. The program will be split into multiple four to six weeks’ modules where the Scouts will do a deep dive on specific topics through interaction with experts, hands-on experimentation, and field trips. According to STEM Scout literature, “STEM Scouts have the opportunity to develop their skills in leadership, communication, creative problem-solving, teamwork and research. High school students also have the opportunity to publish their work in a peer-reviewed journal and build a resume for college.” Imagine that, the ability to get published before you even step onto a college campus.


The program is touting four major benefits by participating in STEM Scouts, including:


1.     Developing STEM Skills

2.     Building a Career

3.     Prepare for the Future

4.     Learning by Doing


I am very excited by this new program for a number of reasons. Having the backing of a proven youth organization such as the Boy Scouts, STEM Scouts will have the much needed youth protection, organizational reach, and resources to grow into a world-class STEM educator. One that will no doubt help fill many of the holes found throughout today’s traditional educational environment. Of course, well-intended parents and eager youth will not succeed if those of us in STEM careers don’t reach out to support them. Companies, nonprofits, and government will need to band together to provide STEM Scouts the opportunities and resources to succeed. A key lesson learned from seeing STEM topics taught in both public schools as well as in community groups is that leaders of the groups, while dedicated, are often busy professionals who would love to get their hands on reliable curriculums and affordable kits so as not to have to always come up with projects from scratch. So if you are a starving engineering college student, or a maker that has fond Scouting memories, this might just be the opportunity to help leave a mark on the STEM movement. No doubt as the STEM Scouts roll out across the nation, more and more leaders will be looking for high quality electronics kits and tutorials that can blend STEM principles with the other major focus of Scouting -- the Great Outdoors! Imagine the possibilities, a do-it-yourself digital compass microcontroller project that can built into a hiking stick or sewing LEDs into your winter gloves for hands-free lighting.


It’s an exciting time for Scouting and great news for the STEM Movement. Let us know, are you involved with STEM Scouts? Or is the STEM Scouts a program that might peek your interest in getting involved in your local community? Either way let us know how you support STEM initiatives in the comments below.


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Michael Parks, P.E. is the co-founder of Green Shoe Garage, a custom electronics design studio and embedded security research firm located in Western Maryland. He produces the Gears of Resistance Podcast to help raise public awareness of technical and scientific matters. Michael is also a licensed Professional Engineer in the state of Maryland and holds a Master’s degree in systems engineering from Johns Hopkins University.

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