November 23rd, 2008


Merit Badges

Brother Dan is an official Scout Master. He drafted me into helping his troop get "Space Exploration" merit badges this Saturday.

I have helped Boy Scouts before with build sessions and launches for the model rocket portion of the process. On checking back, however, I found that the Scouts hadn't finished whatever it took to get their merit badges. After putting in the time and effort to help the boys succeed, this was quite a disappointment.

I let Dan know that if I was to help out with model rockets, the process to make sure the Scouts got their merit badges should be in place. He readily agreed and so "blue cards", Boy Scout booklet, model rockets, and engines were all obtained. Saturday morning was spent building "school rockets" from Balsa Machining Service, a microscopic (But Excellent) company in Northern Illinois. While waiting for glue to dry we discussed how the rockets work, Newtons laws, and model rocket safety. An important intermission for burning off boy energy in the woods came mid morning.

After a lunch of giant hot dogs and potato chips the boys marched to the launch site (an archery range). I drove, taking the launch equipment with me. The launch pad, wires, controller, and battery were duly set up with some Boy Scout help. It seems to earn the merit badge, a scout must make two flights with his model. The second flight must have a "mission". So the second flight mission of the day was spot landing. The object is to land their models as close as possible to a target. A couple of Scouts got lucky, landing within 10 feet of the target.

After many launches and only a couple of rockets landing permanently in trees(several were rescued with long sticks.) we packed up and headed back to the cabin. I talked about the history of space travel for about 30 minutes, keeping their attention for most of that time, and wrapped up the program. More than ten mythical Blue Cards were signed for sending out Monday, so completing the merit badge process.

I hung around for a mostly harmless dinner of boiled pork, onions, carrots, and potatoes then went home.
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