K.S. Bhaskar on 20 Sep 2009 15:27:14 -0700

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[PLUG] Computer Merit Badge at 2010 Chester County Council Boy Scout Science Camp [warning, long message]

The Chester County Council of Boy Scouts of America
(http://cccbsa.org) offers Boy Scout Science Camp every summer.  It's
a one week program at Camp Ware in the southwest corner of Chester
County, Sunday through Saturday where the scouts learn skills and earn
merit badges in technical fields.  One of those merit badges is
Computer Merit Badge.  Evidently the first time that Computer Merit
Badge was ever taught at Science Camp anywhere in the country was in
Chester County many years ago.  Three years ago, along with another
scouter, I taught Computer Merit Badge using 100% FOSS.  We located a
bunch of old computers (in some cases from a recycling center near
Pottstown), installed Linux on them (I customized a version of Damn
Small Linux because some of the machines had only 128MB RAM - today, I
would use Ubuntu/Xubuntu) and used them in class.  At the end of the
week, we had a drawing for those scouts who did not have their own
computers at home to take the recycled machines back with them.

We would like to offer the merit badge again for 2010 Science Camp,
June 27 through July 3 (merit badges are offered every 3-4 years, to
keep the program fresh each year).  Although my colleague from last
time can help a little, he will be busy with plans for a jamboree next
year celebrating 100 years of scouting, and I am looking for someone
else to collaborate with so that we can once again offer this badge
next summer.

What will it entail?  It means creating lesson plans (we can start
with my plans from 2007) and locating & refurbishing old computers.
It will mean going down to Camp Ware on Sunday morning, June 27, 2010
and wiring the classroom.  The Internet came in to a different
building in camp than where we had classes, and so we ran Ethernet
from one building to the other.  We put a router, and hubs / switches
to connect 15 computers.  We also had to set up the computer, put down
power strips, and tape them to the floor.

It will mean teaching in a hot room, with a bunch of computers (open
doors and windows), and no air conditioning for four one and a half
hour sessions each day, Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday (the
scouts usually have a field trip on Wednesday, and instructors have a
day off).  Since teaching the computer merit badge requirements in
this format is ambitious, we also had to open the classroom evenings
after dinner during the week to let boys come in and finish - a time
when other instructors had time off.  That took quite a bit of effort.

The accommodations are five star boy scout style, and you get three
meals a day of camp haute cuisine.  [Yes, there are showers and
regular flush toilets.]  It can also be a bit of an effort maintaining
discipline with a class of 25-30 boys from 12-16 years, some of whom
are motivated, and others who are there only because their parents
thought it would be a good place to park them for a week during summer

If you want to do this, you will also need to register as a merit
badge counselor with Chester County Council (it's free, but you will
need to provide your social security number and some references, and
they will do a background check, since you will be working with

So, I can promise hard work under less than ideal conditions.  But, it
has its own rewards, especially being able to teach young minds, who
have been been brought up to think that software is either purchased
or pirated, that there is a better way.  Science camp is a unique
experience, quite different from regular boy scout activities.

Please write to me off-line if you are interested and want to find out more

-- Bhaskar

P.S. Although men outnumber women considerably as boy scout adult
leaders, a fair number of leaders are women.  For example, the Deputy
Directory of Science Camp in 2007 was a woman, and for several years
running, the manager of summer programs at Camp Ware was a woman.  And
yes, there are separate facilities for men and women at both Camp Ware
and Camp Horseshoe (on two sides of the Octoraro river).  So, if you
are interested, don't let your gender stop you.
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