STEM makes impact in Boy Scout camp classes

David Broyles

July 17, 2014

It’s not your grandfather’s Boy Scout camp.

Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics, known collective as STEM, has settled in amongst the traditional offerings of Camp Raven Knob Boy Scout Reservation’s annual summer offerings.

Camp Director Keith Bobbitt said the facility’s participants typically come from a dozen states as well as throughout North Carolina. He said this year’s participants, for instance, traveled from West Virginia, South Carolina, Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, Georgia and Ohio.

“Our camp’s proximity to Interstate 77 really helps the logistics for many of the scout troops,” said Bobbitt. He estimated a 4,200 boys and 1,200 adults participate in the camp. He confirmed organizers have increased STEM content in the camp’s merit badge classes as a natural extension of ecology programs. The camp holds seven summer camps for scouts and one week of cub scout camp.

Bobbitt said Raven Knob offers courses for credit in aviation, engineering, welding, electronics, digital technology, photography and cinematography as well as maintaining it’s core subjects such as reptile studies, shooting sports such as archery, rifle and handgun with a program for “mountain men.”

He was referring to the facility’s primitive camping area built in the manner of the 1800s which allows participants to learn about black powder, hatchet throwing, knife making and blacksmithing. Bobbitt said a new log cabin is being built in this area, which boasts a cistern-fed water system that has to be replenished by water drawn from a hand pump and carried by bucket.

“We try and teach skills as well as safety and respect for nature,” Bobbitt said. “We have tried to embrace technology here. Our aviation program has a helicopter with a GoPro camera we have used to take pictures from the air of our council fire events. You learn basic skills from how to tie knots but also learn welding and soldering. We have been blessed to have talented volunteers and experienced regular staffers so we can offer a lot of variety. The boys also learn a lot from each other while they are here.”

He said some of the staff at the camp have been involved for more than 20 years who continue with Bobbitt explained the camp is also using Lego robots which campers design, build and program for a “combat” style competition on a tabletop where the robots try to push each other off of the table.

Recently, the cooking merit badge has been upgraded as a requirement to earn eagle scout rank so, Dutch oven, stove top, and backpack meal skills including sanitation and balanced meals planning for the trail have been incorporated into the class. He noted many participants take some classes after they earn the badges because the activities are not offered in their regions.

David Broyles may be reached at 336-415-4739 or on twitter at MtAiryNewsDave.