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NPS Experts Help Boy Scout Troops Earn STEM-based Merit Badges During Campus Visit

U.S. Marine Corps Capt. Matthew Caspers, right, instructs a Boy Scout from the Boy Scouts of America how to solder electronic components onto a circuit board during a STEM-based merit badge event held on the Naval Postgraduate School campus, helping scouts from seven troops earn merit badges in topics such as weather, electronics, oceanography, robotics, electricity, programming, radio, and digital technology.

Men and women in uniform are a common sight on any given day at the Naval Postgraduate School (NPS) campus, but for one weekend recently, seven Boy Scouts of America (BSA) Troops consisting of 67 young men and women in khaki shirts and green pants populated the campus to receive merit badge instruction from NPS faculty and military professionals, Jan. 25-26.

BSA Troops from around the Monterey Peninsula had the chance to learn from NPS’ world-class experts, some of which who are local scoutmasters, on merit badge topics related to Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics (STEM), such as weather, electronics, oceanography, robotics, electricity, programming, radio, and digital technology.

Reminiscent of NPS’ “Discover NPS Day,” a STEM-based, open campus event held every October to inspire local students, U.S. Navy Capt. C. Clark Bone, NPS Information Warfare Chair, credited that annual event as the spark for this event, for he has observed just how the university’s capabilities could support local Scouts with a unique learning experience.

“We went through Discover NPS Day and I thought, ‘Wow, so much of what we do here translates to what the Scouts are interested in,’” said Bone. “I noticed that several of the Scouts’ merit badges aligned with subjects taught here at NPS, so it seemed like the next natural progression was to open up the campus to the local [BSA] troops.”

By pairing up NPS subject matter experts with trained merit badge counselors, the Scouts were able to learn more than just the minimum requirement to earn the badge, for they received in-depth instruction from some of the leading professors in the nation.

“The idea is to expose the scouts to careers and opportunities so they understand something about them when figure out what they want to do when they get older,” said Bone. “For example, we had a weather [Meteorology and Operational Oceanography] officer from the Navy, who’s been responsible for making recommendations to a fleet commander how to proceed with combat operations with impending weather, talking to these kids about the real-world applications of learning about weather.”

The Scouts were also able to get hands-on experiences by exploring NPS’ robotics lab, network server farm and physics labs.

According to local scoutmaster Dr. Douglas Fouts, who also happens to lead NPS’ Electrical and Computer Engineering Department, it takes many volunteers to help Scouts earn their merit badges. Fouts recalled all the volunteers that helped him earn the merit badges he needed to advance to Eagle Scout.

“The U.S. has a strong need to encourage young people to go into STEM careers and I want to pay it forward with this new generation of Scouts,” said Fouts. “The merit badge is a great way to introduce them into these areas.”

Along with faculty, several NPS students volunteered their time to help facilitate the event and assist in the merit badge instruction.

Navy Lt. Alex Schacht, an NPS student, volunteered in hopes of teaching his young son the same skills when he gets older.

“I hope quality instruction can be made available to him the same way it is for these Scouts,” said Schacht. “We are able to offer instruction from experts in the various fields, in a location that provides for excellent hands-on experience.”

One troop was able to get a little extra NPS experience by camping out on campus and starting their day with a Scouts salute during morning colors, while all troops in attendance ended each day by lining up in formation and observing colors by saluting the national ensign.

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