Saturday, June 26, 2010

Scouting Saturday: Inventing Merit Badge!!!

Can't say the badge does a lot for me... but my Boy Scouts have been eagerly awaiting the release of the new Inventing Merit Badge, and that happened last week.

Wow... you know, some merit badges (Fingerprinting!) are ones that (with a little prep work) a kid can earn in an afternoon.  This is not one of those merit badges.  It might be one of those insanely intense merit badges instead.  But somehow I think my two are going to be tackling it anyway.

The new merit badge was unveiled at MIT's EurekaFest invention fair, as the badge was developed in a partnership with Lemelson-MIT.  The first Inventing Merit Badges (honorary ones) were awarded last week to several distinguished Eagle Scouts who are also inventors associated with MIT.

The new merit badge has nine requirements, several of those being multi-part ones.  Some aren't so bad, like learning about intellectual property and its protection -- specifically patents.

But the merit badge also requires the boys to take a look at a currently available product and make recommendations for improving it, including sketches.  And the big project for this merit badge is, well, to invent something.  The steps are great:
  • talk to potential users to determine their needs
  • write up a statement describing your invention, including a sketch
  • build a model out of clay, cardboard, etc.
  • share this with your counselor and potential users and record their reactions
  • build a working prototype
  • test and evaluate that prototype, considering factors such as the cost, usefulness, marketability, and so on

Clearly, this one is going to require some serious work.  And that is fantastic. 

I don't think every merit badge needs to be designed so that it is easily attainable by everyone.  One of my biggest issues with merit badges is that you can earn one such as Animal Science without ever even seeing an animal, much less working with one.  That is just WRONG.  Honestly, I think it is pathetic that you can earn the merit badge without raising an animal.  But at the very least, you should have to actually visit one.  Live.  Not just read about cows (or horses, or sheep, or pigs, or chickens) on the internet.  (My children know that THEY can't get away with that though.)

So I think the Inventing Merit Badge is great.  Let's push these boys some.

Now that I've seen this, I cannot wait to see Robotics unveiled, which apparently won't be until the first quarter of 2011.

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