Southeast hosts STEM University for Scouts

Sunday, January 5, 2014
Easton Lovall of Sikeston, Mo., a Webelos scout, assists Jason Lindsey with a science demonstration during STEM University on Saturday at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

The Cub Scouts and Boy Scouts always have helped boys down the road toward manhood. Now they're assuming a role in the youngsters' preparations to compete in the global economy.

More than any other subjects, the keys to that are considered to be science, technology, engineering and mathematics, whose acronym, STEM, names the program backed by the Scouts in cooperation with Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Addressing a STEM University convocation of 200 Boy Scouts on Saturday morning in SEMO's Dempster Hall, university president Kenneth Dobbins said the boys and 100 Cub Scouts he was meeting later "will have the opportunity to talk to folks who spur your interest in learning about things you use for a lifetime."

"President Obama and the governor of the state of Missouri [Jay Nixon] are really concerned about the numbers of individuals going into the STEM fields," Dobbins said.

Noting Saturday's emphases would be on technology for the Boy Scouts and map-reading, compass-making and GPS-reading for the Cubs, Kathleen Gaare-Weise, BSA commissioner for the Egyptian District of Southern Illinois, said a similar seminar had been held the previous weekend at the University of Missouri-St. Louis.

Glen Boyd, left, and John Singleton, Boy Scouts with Troop 11 of Jackson, build a Lego robot Saturday in the robotics class of STEM University at Southeast Missouri State University in Cape Girardeau. (Fred Lynch)

"From the St. Louis area to Poplar Bluff and Southern Illinois, the Boy Scouts will all be working today on merit badges in technology," Gaare-Weise said.

"The Cubs will go from low-tech -- how to read maps and how to make compasses and read them -- to high-tech -- reading GPS [global positioning systems]," Gaare-Weise said.

Scoutmaster Jim Caldwell of Cape Girardeau had registered his son Nathan and Nathan's friend, Max Sparks, both of Cub Pack 222.

Asked what he expected to learn during the day of instruction, Nathan said: "Hopefully some engineering and most likely science and whatever else there is to learn.

"I'm excited," the fifth-grader said. "We'll study maps and compasses, which I have sort of studied before. It helps with your sense of direction and knowing where you're going and what you are going to do next."

Max said he hoped to learn "something about electricity and wiring."

"I'm wearing a compass now," he said, showing his wrist. "The Earth has a magnetic force that pulls it the way it goes."

Assistant Scoutmaster Rick Ritchey of Imperial, Mo., was downstairs with the other leaders and his son Jonah, who wanted to earn a merit badge in geology.

"I have an interest in it because I would like to know about it better and understand it better," the sixth-grader said.

Cubs Pack 89 member Gabriel Lloyd of Kennett was waiting with his father Billy to register. "I want to know about the really good stuff about maps and science," the second-grader said.

A news release from the Boy Scouts' Greater St. Louis Area Council estimated that Missouri will need to fill more than 100,000 STEM-related jobs by 2018.

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