Cubmaster Brian Kersey, second from left, helps Cub Scouts Eric LeGare, left, Rylend Shaw and Jaydon Davis work on building a robot, which will eventually move on command.
CLEARWATER – When you think of Cub Scouts, you no doubt think of nature and the great outdoors. Robots and computers don’t easily come to mind as something that fits well with a campfire. Cubs and parents at Pack 400 in Clearwater beg to differ.
The pack has recently begun to build a robot and get involved in other projects to do with science and engineering. While they are still involved in traditional scouting activities, they have also embraced what is known as STEM: science, technology, engineering and mathematics. It is a program developed and promoted by IET – the Institution of Engineering and Technology.
Cubmaster Brian Kersey says the boys have taken to the new program in a big way.
“My son, Davis, who is in second grade, just loves it,” he said. “I took the program to a couple of elementary schools and showed the children the robots and we were nearly overrun on the stage. That’s when I knew right away that we were on the right track and it became part of our recruiting program”
When Kersey began the recruiting program, there were only seven cubs in his pack. It quickly grew to its present size of 26 and he predicts it will grow to 50 before long.
“The word is spreading because this is entertaining,” he said. “We needed something other than the usual scouting program to keep them interested. There are so many options for kids these days that we needed to offer more. We still go camping and tie knots and learn about the flag and pocketknife safety. Those have been in place for a 100 years, and we’ve just married them with this new program.”
Kersey says he has to have the help of a lot of parents to teach the new program, and even then it is a slow process because of the age of the boys.
“Without the parents, we couldn’t do it,” he said. “It is a slow creep, the older boys move faster. There is a learning curve and everybody is at their own rate. It is challenging. It is really challenging and we don’t let them advance until they understand. Sometimes it takes six months, but then they start to get it.”
The program of science and engineering involves more than just robotics.
“Each week we’re involved in teaching the boys other scientific things such as scientific methods, the galaxy, the solar system, and wind power,” said Kersey. “We’re working on the Nova award, which is an award in scouting that goes all the way up to Eagle Scouts who are 18 years old. Our guys are first- and second-graders, so we’re proud of that.”
One enthusiastic parent is Michael LeGare, whose son, Eric, is part of the cub pack.
“I think it is a good program,” he said. “We’re the only Cub Scout pack involved in it right now, it is sort of a pilot project, and I understand other packs are looking into it.”
LeGare says his son can’t wait to get his hands on the robot parts to get building when he goes to Cubs.
“Eric loves robots,” he said. “He’s already pretty good on computers, and now he’s learning how to program them. It is like building a model kit. I can tell you, when it is robot night at Cubs, he is all excited.”
LeGare helps the boys on robot night by showing them how they can take advantage of wind power.
“We’ve done radio-controlled sailboats, and they learn the theory behind sailing, wind and so on,” he said. “They use remotes and get to see what it is like to sail with the wind and against the wind.”
Rylend Shaw, 11, who will be graduating to the Boy Scouts soon, is a supporter of the new science and engineering programs that he is involved in.
“I love it. Engineering is fun,” he said. “I have been involved in engineering things since I was 2 years old, and I definitely want to be an engineer. I just like inventing new things.”
Yet for all his hopes for his future career, he still likes the traditional scouting activities.
“I like camping; I love it,” he said. “I like it as much as the science stuff.”
While traditionalists might scoff at this new program at Clearwater’s Pack 400, those committed to it say it is an inevitable evolution.
“It is the age,” said parent LeGare. “It is all technology now. We still do the campfires, we do a campout and they still learn outdoor activities, but this is something new to keep up with the times. Technology is the driving force behind the economy now.”
Cub Pack 400 of Clearwater meets every Thursday evening at 6:30 p.m. at St. John’s Episcopal Church at 1676 Belcher Road. New cubs are welcome.