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At the crossroads of STEM and Scouts

A few weekends ago I had the opportunity to talk to Boy Scouts about electricity and ham radio. The local ham club created the content, which talked about basics like Ohm’s law and electromagnetic fields, and the purposes and applications of ham radio. Although at first I was assisted by some senior hams, I ended up covering the content for the rest of the afternoon. It was the first time I spoke to kids on the topic in English.

One thing I noticed was that while the content was excellent, the delivery lacked a bit of excitement and purpose. It was not clear for all Scouts whether anything in that day actually added value or not. So I started using other methods, like showing them the slides on my Surface, or doing actual IRLP demos with my handheld radio. That made a lot of difference and they engaged with tons of questions and ideas.

They particularly engaged in the conversation of the value of ham radio in emergency situations. They understood the concept of a resilient infrastructure and how hams would operate in such a situation (nets, etc.) I had joined the Redmond ARES team a few weeks before so I shared with them some of the things a RACES/ARES team could deliver in case of emergency – bingo! As a former Scout, “Be Prepared” conveys a universal sense of being one step ahead, and those small 15 minutes session with each one of the 7 groups during that day was a real opportunity to make the difference.

A couple dozens of them ended up passing their ham radio exams and earning their merit badges. And while we did the post-mortem I realized that this is the kind of events in our lives that led us to STEM career. I believe in the value of STEM although I’m not an advocate of things like shoving programming down every kid’s throat. And I also realized that the lack of excitement, and the lack of those “make the difference” experiences can influence those life decisions. 73, and be prepared!

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