February 24, 2017

SIU to host ‘STEM University’ for Boy Scouts

by Tim Crosby

CARBONDALE, Ill. – Knots, woodworking and nature are all traditional areas in which The Boy Scouts of America awards merit badges. But now you can add science, technology, engineering and math to that list, and Southern Illinois University Carbondale will be helping scouts from throughout the area earn those awards, too. 

On Saturday, Feb. 25, SIU will play host to its second “STEM University.” The daylong event at the Neckers Building and a few other spots on the SIU campus will give scouts a chance to work on these new and traditional merit badges. Organizers expect about 200 scouts from the area to attend the event at SIU. 

STEM stands for “science, technology, engineering and mathematics,” and leaders in both K-12 and higher education are emphasizing success in those areas as a means of keeping the country competitive in the coming decades. 

Media Advisory

Reporters, photographers and television news crews are welcome to cover this event. The opening session begins at 8:30 a.m. and the event runs until about 4 p.m. During the morning and afternoon sessions scouts will participate in a variety of merit badge and STEM Nova activities.  Harvey Henson, assistant professor of curriculum and instruction, will give a talk on the upcoming total solar eclipse during lunch, which also will include robotics and chemistry demonstrations and a solar viewing. For more information, contact Gary Kinsel, professor of chemistry and biochemistry, at 618/453-6482 or gkinsel@chem.siu.edu.

The majority of the event will take place in the Neckers Building.  Some scouts will go to Parkinson Hall to study geology while others will go to the Engineering Building, the craft shop at the Student Center, or WSIU radio.  A secondary site will also exist at the Transportation Education Center at the Southern Illinois Airport, where scouts will participate in aviation and automotive maintenance merit badges activities. 

The Greater St. Louis Area Council Boy Scouts of America first began incorporating STEM education into its programs in 2012. In 2015, local scouts earned more than 3,900 STEM-related awards, officials there said. 

The scouts’ Nova Awards program is aimed at creating and expanding a sense of wonder. Working with an adult counselor or mentor on various modules, scouts explore the basic principles of STEM. The organization also offers a Supernova award, for those who enjoy a super challenge. 

“The Boy Scouts of America has decided to embrace STEM education as part of its basic mission,” said Gary Kinsel, professor in the Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry at SIU and lead organizer of the event. “Universities such as SIU can play a vital role in this mission through events like this by engaging the scouts with faculty who can bring the expertise and excitement of their fields into the various workshops.” 

Kinsel said the event also provides a great opportunity to introduce grade school, middle school and high school boys, and their parents, to the SIU campus and show them the exciting STEM education opportunities it offers.