Robot building part of new program encouraging Scouts to explore sciences

Scouts across Canada will soon have enhanced science and technology opportunities, following an announcement Monday.

Scouts across Canada will soon have enhanced science and technology opportunities, following an announcement Monday.

ExxonMobil and Imperial Oil will contribute $1 million to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) related programming through Scouts Canada over a five-year period.

Chief commissioner Andrew Price announced the partnership at Camp Woods near Sylvan Lake, during Canadian Scout Jamboree 2013 (CJ ’13).

“We have a huge interest as Scouts in helping youth to develop into confident adults, and Imperial has a real focus in helping to develop interest in young people in the areas of science and technology,” he said. “It’s an area where they and the Government of Canada are quite aware folks aren’t quite as interested as we need them to be.”

Price said Scouts already take part in STEM-related activities such as fire starting and bridge building. The new partnership, he feels, will allow Scouts access to new areas previously unavailable to them.

“This partnership will allow us to maybe be a little bit more explicit about the principles and help kids understand why science is fun,” he said.

Feedback from Scouts participating in an early run of a STEM robot building program has been positive, according to CJ ’13 STEM lead Andrew Paterson.

“It has a lot of appeal,” he said. “The kids see robots and computers and they become interested.”

Scouts taking part in a robotics activity at Camp Woods were learning new STEM-related concepts in a challenging, yet enjoyable, way, according to national STEM coordinator Barry Mitchell.

Such activities will soon be available to Scouts across the country, he added.

“We’re pulling together the ideas — many of which come from our leadership across Canada — and we developed those into materials that can be used by youth and leadership teams in order to run STEM-related activities within their program.”

The new partnership is modelled on one held between ExxonMobil and Boy Scouts of America, according to Price. That partnership prompted him to pursue a similar one for Scouts Canada.

Full STEM programming is set to begin in 2014, with trials taking place later this year.

Since the beginning of the jamboree Saturday, Camp Woods has hosted more than 6,500 Scouts, leaders and volunteers.

Scouts have participated in outdoor activities including canoeing, rock climbing and archery and visited several off-site attractions such as Calgary Stampede and West Edmonton Mall.

The jamboree wraps up with a closing ceremony Friday evening.