The College of Engineering hosted MU’s eighth annual Merit Badge Day, where more than 700 Boy Scouts gathered to earn badges in more than 40 different subject areas. Young scouts took over campus excited to learn from MU experts about topics such as nuclear science, emergency preparedness or robotics.
Partnered with the Boy Scouts of America’s Great Rivers Council, the College was able to teach scouts from all across Missouri. David Harris, the field director of the council, was proud that Merit Badge Day continued on this year.
“It’s important for the community because it introduces scouts to different subject areas, whether it’s geology or citizenship in the community or communication,” Harris said. “It helps them build skills that are going to have them prepared for life in the decades to come and to be the future leaders of the next generation.”
Scouts started the day at the Missouri Theatre, where UM System President Mun Choi greeted them with an inspirational message.
“I know that you have the commitment that is very important to achieve excellence, to respect people, to take on responsibility and have a sense of discovery about what we do. I’d like to ask all of you here to think about two more principles. First is compassion and second is resilience,” Choi said. “You have to go back to the original principles: Respect, responsibility, discovery, excellence and compassion. And with those principles, I am sure you will make the right decisions as you move forward.”
The eager scouts then immersed themselves in their classes and gained basic knowledge and hands on experience.
Scout Johnny Rau took the personal management merit badge course to learn how to manage money and set financial goals. This was his third year at Merit Badge Day, and he plans to attend next year as well.
“I would definitely recommend [it] because you get the chance to meet other people and see a new place. You learn something you don’t know about,” said Raul.
Josh Gann is another scout who was earning the personal management badge. By taking this course, he was able to get closer to Eagle Scout status.
“It’s a good way to earn merit badges that other places don’t offer because it offers a lot of Eagle Scout badges, and I’m able to relate stuff [I] learned in school,” Raul said.
The young men not only got the opportunity to earn diverse merit badges from a multitude of areas, they were able to learn from MU professors themselves.
Todd VanPool is a professor of paleontology at Mizzou and a former boy scout. He and his wife, Christine VanPool, taught the archeological merit badge.
“We’ve got some young men in there who really want to know about the past. They really want to know about archeology. They’re interested in possibly having a career in archeology. They’re asking great questions. They’re listening attentively; it’s just wonderful,” said Todd VanPool.
The scouts came into Merit Badge Day ready to learn and receive the next level of knowledge to become better scouts. Christine VanPool was surprised by how prepared and enthusiastic her archeological scouts were.
“They’re far more engaged than my students. They actually came in this class reading and prepared and actually had a great deal of knowledge. These young men came in with almost all the requirements already looked at,” Christine VanPool said. “So we have certain requirements: you have to know what archeology is, you have to know the laws governing it, you have to know about sights, you have to know about anthropology and they already knew all that coming in.”
Many scouts found that they truly enjoyed the topics they learned and might want to continue studying them.
Michael Sifford, who took the archeology course, was excited to learn anything about the field.
“I’m trying to be an Eagle Scout and get as many merit badges as I can,” said Sifford. “I like science and paleontology, and I like [archeology] more than I thought I would.”
The robotics merit badge had scouts partnered with the Mizzou Army Ants robotics team where they programmed and built their own robots. Scouts ran back and forth between the pro-computers and the course the robots were following.
Ethan Johnson loved being able to work on the robots themselves and might even pursue robotics in the future.
“I learned how to code a robot and how to follow a line. I do want to make robots when I grow up, maybe even here [at Mizzou],” Johnson said.