Boy Scouts of America announces Robotics Merit Badge requirements

 Boy Scouts of America Introduces Robotics Merit Badge


 Merit badge applies STEM principles in a way that’s fun and interesting


DALLAS, Texas (April 11, 2011)—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."

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:


1. Safety. Do each of the following:
a. Explain to your counselor the most likely hazards you may encounter while working with robots and what you should do to anticipate, mitigate and prevent, and respond to these hazards. Describe the appropriate safety gear and clothing that should be used when working with robotics.
b. Discuss first aid and prevention for the types of injuries that could occur while participating in robotics activities and competitions, including cuts, eye injuries, and burns (chemical or heat).

2. Robotics industry. Discuss the following with your counselor:
a. The kinds of things robots can do and how robots are best used today.
b. The similarities and differences between remote control vehicles, telerobots, and autonomous robots.
c. Three different methods robots can use to move themselves other than wheels or tracks. Describe when it would be appropriate to use each method.

3. General knowledge. Discuss with your counselor three of the five major fields of robotics (human-robot interface, mobility, manipulation, programming, sensors) and their importance to robotics development. Discuss either the three fields as they relate to a single robot system OR talk about each field in general. Find pictures and/or at least one video to aid your discussion.

4. Design, build, program, test. Do each of the following:
a. With your counselor’s approval, choose a task for the robot or robotic subsystem that you plan to build. Include sensor feedback and programming in the task. Document this information in your robot engineering notebook.
b. Design your robot. The robot design should use sensors and programming and have at least 2 degrees of freedom. Document the design in your robot engineering notebook using drawings and a written description.
c. Build a robot or robotic subsystem of your original design to accomplish the task you chose for requirement 4a.
d. Discuss with your counselor the programming options available for your robot. Then do either option 1 OR option 2.
(1) Option 1. Program a robot to perform the task you chose for your robot in 4a. Include a sample of your program’s source code in your robot engineering notebook.
(2) Option 2. Prepare a flow chart of the desired steps to program your robot for accomplishing the task in 4a. Include procedures that show activities based on sensor inputs. Place this in your robot engineering notebook.
e. Test your robot and record the results in your robot engineering notebook. Include suggestions on how you could improve your robot, as well as pictures or sketches of your finished robot.

5. Demonstrate. Do the following:
a. Demonstrate for your counselor the robot you built in requirement 4.
b. Share your robot engineering notebook with your counselor. Talk about how well your robot accomplished the task, the improvements you would make in your next design, and what you learned about the design process.

6. Competitions. Do ONE of the following.
a. Attend a robotics competition and report to your counselor what you saw and learned about the competition and how teams are organized and managed.
b. Learn about three youth robotics competitions. Tell your counselor about these, including the type of competition, time commitment, age of the participants, and how many teams are involved.

7. Careers. Name three career opportunities in robotics. Pick one and find out the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.

Some of the robotics platforms that may be used include: 

LEGO Mindstorms Robotics

Parallax Boe-Bot Robot Kit