MU’s ninth-annual Merit Badge Day broke records as the largest in its history. Hosted by the College of Engineering, almost 800 scouts from six states came ready to learn and take on challenges.
Merit Badge Day aims to give students the opportunity to explore new topics in a fun and engaging environment while advancing in the Scouts BSA Program. Partnering with the Boy Scouts of America Great Rivers Council, the College offered 47 merit badges — the most ever. Scouts could tackle a multitude of topics like the fundamentals of engineering with bridge building or the intricacies of programming with robotics.
David Harris, the field director for the Great Rivers Council, wanted scouts to leave the day with a new-found passion and curiosity for the world.
“More than anything else, I want them to learn something. I want them to develop a new skill,” he said. “I want them to experience something different, so that they can expand their horizons and propel themselves to the rest of their lives.”
This year’s Merit Badge Day wasn’t just monumental because of its size. This was also the first year both boys and girls attended. About 10 percent of scouts were girls, working to add badges to their sashes.
Dean Elizabeth Loboa was proud the College could be a part of this historical moment. She spoke to all 783 scouts in Jesse Auditorium about the importance of hard work and determination.
“Scouting isn’t easy. It takes tremendous commitment, teamwork and effort,” she said. “But the lessons you will learn today and throughout your experience will equip you with the tools for success in life. The world will be your oyster.”
UM System President Mun Choi also spoke and encouraged scouts to seize this unique learning opportunity. He wanted scouts to see how MU’s founding principles and those of the Scouts BSA program are quite similar.
“We’re both organizations that showcase the importance of respect, responsibility, discovery and excellence,” he said. “Merit Badge Day is a tremendous opportunity for scouts to continue on the pathway to success through an educational environment that expands beyond their troop’s activities.”
Scouts spent the entire day mastering new skills and collaborating with students from other troops. While there were many STEM topics, students could also earn badges in areas like photography or emergency preparedness.
One of the main benefits Merit Badge Day offers is the chance for scouts to earn diverse badges from MU experts themselves. Kiruba Krishnaswamy, an assistant professor in the Biomedical, Biological & Chemical Engineering Department and Food Science Program, taught the course on sustainability. She challenged scouts to think innovatively about overcoming the world’s sustainability problems and got them thinking more about what sustainability means.
Krishnaswamy was inspired by the scouts’ creativity and said her favorite part was listening to their ideas.
“They should start thinking about sustainability in their day to day lives. They are the future citizens, future leaders,” she said. “If we incorporate thinking holistically, sustainably, then they will take action more towards the greater good.”