San Diego, Calif., March 25, 2014 -- “A lot of times when you think about the skills Boy Scouts learn you think about tying knots, pioneering and fishing, not so much learning how to code,” said local Scout Leader Ron Anderson while his Vista-based troop defied that stereotype and worked through a programming tutorial in UC San Diego’s computer science laboratory in pursuit of their computer science merit badge.
On March 8, more than 100 Boy Scouts descended on the UC San Diego campus to take part in the second annual merit badge fair organized by the campus’ chapter of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineering student. The local scouts – aged 11 to 18 – had the option of earning badges in either electrical engineering or computer programming.
“We hold the fair so that the boys can earn their badges, but the real goal of the event is to give them the skills to further themselves in the field if they choose to,” event organizer and third-year computer science major Jeremy Kao said. “Hopefully this will inspire them to want to pursue the STEM fields and give them a head start.”
For those looking to earn a merit badge in computer science, the day began with a lecture on the history of computer programming, an overview of different programming languages and the fundamentals of computer code. The boys then proceeded to complete elementary programs in three different computer languages, which Marshall Middle School sixth-grader Luke Bosworth said was the, “most exciting and interesting” part of the event.
“I think it’s great that this fair can expose the kids to professional skills that are valuable and not usually taught in school,” said Bradley Owen, a merit badge counselor who also is a product manager at local San Diego tech company Service Now. Owen, who had two scouts of his own at the fair said he also liked that the event gave the boys a chance to hear from other industry professionals.
Meanwhile the scouts working on earning a badge in electrical engineering learned about basic electronic theory and the different components of circuits. After listening to industry professionals talk about their experiences in the field, the scouts were put to the test – tasked to diagram, build and solder their own circuits, which they could take home after the event.
With the popularity of its past two merit badge fairs, Kao said the IEEE is planning to hold a similar event for local Girl Scouts in the coming months, which will likely also focus on teaching computer programming and electronics.