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Focus on technology used as a recruiting tool in Scout programs

GLEN JEAN, W.Va. -- Evan Blackwood, 16, is an Eagle Scout from Charleston, Troop 64. He is writing about his experiences at the National Scout Jamboree. This is his third installment:

Today's Scouts are different from their counterparts of 100 years ago, or even my dad's generation. STEM (science, technology, engineering, mathematics) is becoming integrated into many Scouting activities. Part of the focus on technology is to rekindle youths' interest in Scouting.

Nationally, Scouting programs have been losing numbers. As part of the effort to reverse that, Scout Councils are switching to more high-adventure programs and integrating technology and science.

The Summit is technology-focused. Cellphone towers, Wi-Fi hotspots, and other technologies that allow Scouts to use their electronic communication devices are located throughout the site.

One of the highlights of the Jamboree this year is the area known as the Cloud. That is where several universities from around the United States are coming to highlight technology and science.

Each Scout is given the opportunity to come and spend as much time as they want in the Cloud, where they can learn about the spread of viruses, DNA, augmented reality, software development, robotics and many other technology-based activities.

I enjoy camping, biking and hiking. But I also like spending time playing games on my computer with my friends. I think this new focus on science and technology in Scouting is a very good step. I think it will open up new opportunities for Scouts and encourage more to join Scouting programs in their areas.

To support the new focus on technology, the Boy Scouts have recently introduced several new merit badges. This started a few years ago with the robotics merit badge.

This year, game design, digital technology, animation, computer-aided design, advanced computer, and multimedia merit badges were added.

Though traditional Scouting activities remain central to the core program, it is exciting to see how technology is being integrated. It will enhance, not supplant, the vision for Scouting that Lord Baden Powell had more than a century ago.

Technology is going to be a central part of the rest of my life. I am glad that the Scouting program is changing to meet the interests of kids my age. The Scouting program has many things it can teach us. Technology simply becomes the hook that gets us involved.

Even our shirts, specifically designed for the Jamboree, declare: "Technology is high adventure for the mind."


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