Robots Take Center Stage at Boy Scouts AdvanceCamp

From left, Conner, AJ, Aaron, Cole and Cooper work on a robot at AdvanceCamp.

By Tami Barrera

The Boy Scouts are no longer just about camping and learning to start fires from kindling. They’ve now gone high-tech. The focus was on robots and electricity at AdvanceCamp 2011, which was held at the Antioch Fairgrounds last weekend.

The camp allows Boy Scouts to earn merit badges quickly as they work toward becoming Eagle Scouts. The camp’s merit badge categories include Family Life, Citizenship in Community, Nation and World, Personal Fitness, and Personal Management. The camp also provided projects focusing on electricity, robotics, sculpture, computers, geo-caching and much more.

Robotics was added to AdvanceCamp this year in response to concerns that American students are falling behind in science, technology, engineering and math. The boys learned to work as a team to construct and program a Mind Storm Lego Kits robot.

Cooper, 11 of Brentwood’s Troop 21, signed up for the robot badge, he said, in order to build stuff and knows that in the future it will be very important. It also lets him hang out with his friends doing something fun. Cooper added that robots are great for medicine, allowing faster, more precise surgeries and quicker recoveries for patients.

Cole, 11, who is in the same troop, said he thought that Boy Scouts was only related to camping, and was a little nervous to be doing the robotics badge with the fear that he would not understand the programming. But as he we doing it he became more confident that he can figure it out. He said he’s glad that Boy Scouts is all futuristic now.

AJ, of Troop 21 said he has always enjoyed robots, and was excited when his brother showed him how to rewire things and make a light switch turn things off and on. That knowledge has helped him find out more about robots.

Conner, 15, with Pleasanton’s Troop 911, said that he and his brother had bought a kit in the past and it had many features that give the robot limited ability to operate independent of the programmer/creator, depending on how it’s programmed. It includes sensors for touch, light and sound.

Don Ryan, who led the teaching of the robotics merit badge, demonstrated what each sensor does and said that the key to having a high-functioning robot is to focus on the programming. According to Conner, robots will be a great part of transportation in the future and because they are so precise they will be the ones building the buildings in the future, and they will be used for innovative healthcare and they will be prevalent in hospitals.

The electricity elective was taught by Mr. Jim Patchen, who pointed out that it can hurt you, but also benefit you. He had the Scouts wear gloves and feel the surge of electricity as they held a metal rod iron. They were mesmerized by its great power.

These are just a few of the goings on at the Advance Camp 2011. For more information call Steve Hoagland at 925-595-9156.

This year’s camp was held in memory of Board Member/Staff Director/Vice President Richard Ball, who died in July at 62. Donations can be sent to the Richard Ball Memorial Fund 640 Bailey Road #142, Bay Point, CA 94565. AdvanceCamp, Inc. is a 501 (c) 3 charitable institution run by registered volunteer Scout leaders who serve without compensation. All donations go toward the program.

Evan Benson gets a charge out of earning his Electricity Merit badge.

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