Staffer Hopes Robotics Badge Gears Scouts for Future
Assistant Director of Science Education Center Helped Develop Program
Jul. 7, 2011
A UT Dallas official played a key role in the development of a new merit badge in robotics offered by the Boy Scouts of America.
The 118-year-old organization tapped Dr. Kenneth Berry, assistant director of the Science and Engineering Education Center (SEEC) at UT Dallas, to write the Robotics Merit Badge pamphlet and develop the requirements for scouting’s newest badge. It was an offer that the former Eagle Scout and troop leader was eager to accept.
The Boy Scouts' Robotics Merit Badge depicts NASA's Mars Rover.
“BSA has developed a STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) initiative over the last 10 years in an effort to update the organization,” Berry said. “Camping and hiking are still an important part of Boy Scouts, but so is robotics, invention and geocaching. They chose MIT to produce the invention merit badge and UT Dallas for the robotics merit badge.”
Introduced in April, the robotics merit badge can be earned by Scouts who design, build and successfully demonstrate the robot they’ve created. The development of the requirements was part of the larger effort to create a merit badge pamphlet for scouts to use as they work toward earning the robotics badge.
Berry directed the 14-month effort to create the merit badge requirements and pamphlet, which included input from more than 100 Boy Scouts, scout leaders and other industry professionals.
“We collaborated with several organizations and schools across the country on this project,” Berry said. “It all came down to defining the requirements. The scouts have to build a robot with sensors, one that moves around in the environment and performs a difficult task.”
Berry directed the effort to create the merit badge requirements and book.
Within the first 10 days of release, 5,000 scouts had purchased the pamphlet and almost as many had earned the badge.
The Boy Scouts of America chose to put the pamphlet online as a way to keep the content updated as technology changes.
“I think the focus on STEM is a wonderful way for Boy Scouts to stay current with today’s society. Earning the Robotics Merit Badge will introduce boys to STEM concepts and skills through a fun and meaningful activity,” Berry said.
Berry, who earned Boy Scouts’ highest rank of Eagle Scout, feels the process brings full circle his lifelong affiliation with the organization.
“I considered it a high honor to work on this project,” he said. “BSA is a great organization, and I hope this encourages kids to give robotics a try.”