NASA and Boy Scouts of America introduce robotics merit badge

When people think of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA), they envision activities like camping, knot-tying and canoeing, but soon, they'll need to add robot-building to that list. Scouts in 2011, through the introduction of the robotics merit badge, now have the opportunity to design, build and demonstrate a robot of their own creation.

The robotics merit badge is part of the BSA’s new curriculum emphasis on STEM: science, technology, engineering and math. The BSA focus on STEM takes a fun, adventurous approach to helping Scouts develop critical skills that are relevant and needed in today’s competitive world. The new merit badge is one of 31 STEM-related merit badges that Scouts can earn.

“The robotics merit badge is an example of how Scouting remains true to its roots to help young people be prepared,” said BSA Chief Scout Executive Bob Mazzuca. “While the guiding principles of Scouting — service to others, leadership, personal achievement and respect for the outdoors — will never change, we continue to adapt programs to prepare young people for success in all areas of life.”

Boy Scouts of America Robotics Badge
This merit badge involved approximately 14 months of development and input from more than 150 youth members, leaders, and industry professionals from across the nation. Earning the robotics merit badge requires a Scout to understand how robots move (actuators), how they sense the environment (sensors) and how they understand what to do (programming). Scouts will spend approximately 14 hours meeting the requirements of this merit badge, including that they design a robot and demonstrate how it works. The BSA anticipates more than 10,000 robotics merit badges will be earned in its first year.

The BSA developed the robotics merit badge because of the wide-reaching impact of robotics and the role STEM will continue to play in young people’s lives moving forward. Robots are used in almost every field — in medicine and manufacturing, law enforcement and search and rescue, and space and underwater exploration. They appear regularly in daily life, be it vacuuming, mowing the lawn and/or cleaning the pool. Even some video game controllers are considered robots.

To earn the robotics merit badge, Scouts must (example only):

  • Explain and discuss hazards and safety prevention
  • Explain how robots are used today
  • Discuss three of the five major fields of robotics
    (human-robot interface, mobility, manipulation, programming, sensors)
  • Design, build, program and test their robot
  • Demonstrate the robot, and share the engineering notebook for that robot
  • Attend a robotics competition or do research on robotics competitions
  • Discuss career opportunities in robotics
    (Must include information on the education, training and experience required.)