The Boy Scouts of America sponsor a series of merit badge opportunities for their members. The Nuclear Science merit badge was updated in 2004, but the requirements have not drastically changed from the previous Atomic Energy merit badge. This guide demonstrates one way to host a Nuclear Science merit badge workshop. The structure of this program will hopefully make it easy for the user to remove one or more components and replace them with ones that are more appropriate. Be sure to get a copy of the Nuclear Science Merit Badge book from your local Boy Scouts of America council.
The Nuclear Science merit badge has some fixed requirements and others that can be tailored to meet the needs of the counselor. For example, one portion requires that you complete any three out of 10 suggested tasks. The full requirements are found in Appendix A. This guide is designed to allow the scouts to fully complete the merit badge in one day (~6 hours). In addition, this program requires that the scouts complete some "homework" prior to the workshop. However, the homework could easily be removed if an additional session were added to the program. The PowerPoint presentations (terms.ppt and great_scientists.ppt) have been included to help with this session.
Getting scouts interested in attending the Nuclear Science workshop has not been a difficult task in recent years. There appears to be a large demand for challenging merit badge workshops, particularly those in scientific fields. The Boy Scouts of America is a very structured organization, and there are probably many troops in your area. An effective way to advertise your workshop is to contact one or more regional Councils and ask them to distribute your information to the troops within the council. You can then set up a web registration system or simply have individuals call or email you with the registration information. A fee of $5-10 to cover the expenses of the event is common for these workshops. The scouts can be asked to bring a sack lunch if restaurant facilities are not available. Due to space or other constraints, you may need to set a cap on the number of participants. Be sure to include parents in your count. Many parents will not plan to attend, but some will want to be there. This is beneficial in two ways: you can rely on them to help keep the scouts under control and you can enlist them to help verify that the scouts are fulfilling their requirements.
In order to award a merit badge in one session, while keeping the workshop as short as possible, a number of the requirements are fulfilled ahead of time. Specifically, three of the requirements are done in the form of homework. Requirement 2 asks the scouts to define a number of terms. Requirement 3 has them explain the contribution of five scientists to the nuclear science field. Requirement 6 has three options, any of which could be required to be completed ahead of time. Option b, for example, asks the scouts to answer questions regarding nuclear power in the United States. This homework can be checked by the individuals working at your event during the lunch break or could be mailed to you ahead of time for evaluation.
Set a registration time 30 minutes before your workshop begins. This will give you time to collect registration fees, be sure everyone is there, and hopefully allow everyone to arrive and find a seat before the workshop begins. You should also have time to take the parents aside and let them know how the day will run. At this time, you can also give them maps and schedules so they are prepared to lead the scouts from event to event. This will relieve some of the workload for your workers. An example schedule and map have been provided. If you have a small number of scouts (<15) registered, you can run this program straight through. However, if you have more scouts, you will need to break them into groups. They will all be together for the opening session, but will then break into the smaller groups and rotate through five stations to complete their requirements. This guide contains a presentation suitable for the opening session and the material required to run the various stations.
After introducing yourself and the other workers, begin by dividing the scouts into groups. Assign one or more of your workers to be a "group leader" for each of them. A PowerPoint presentation entitled "Opening Session" has been created to guide you through this session. Three requirements will be fulfilled in this 55 minute lecture. These include making an atom model (Req. 4a), describing the radiation hazard symbol (Req. 1b), and discussing biological effects of radiation (Req. 1a). The requirements will be fulfilled in breakout sessions where the group leaders guide their small groups, verify that each scout has fulfilled the requirements, and sign their cards. At the end of this session, the scouts will break into their small groups and go to their first session. Provide schedules and maps to the parents and ask them to keep the small groups on track. An example schedule is provided in the Word document entitled "Boy Scout Program".
This station can be fulfilled in one of two ways. Either a tour of a nuclear reactor or similar facility could be given, or models of nuclear reactors could be constructed, as outlined in the Nuclear Science Merit Badge pamphlet. If the second option is chosen, this station would fulfill an additional requirement (Req. 5b). Either option must include a discussion of the fission chain reaction and the concept of critical mass. A PowerPoint presentation discussing fission and the chain reaction is provided (fission_drawing.doc). The scouts can fill out the provided form (nuclear_fission_station.doc) to fulfill requirements 4b and 4c.
In order to fulfill requirement 5c, the scouts must use a Geiger counter and radioactive source to examine the effects of time, distance, and shielding on radiation levels. They can then fill out the provided form (radiation_measurement_station.doc) to fulfill this requirement. One or more sets of Geiger counters, sources, shield sets, and rulers will be needed for this station. Another activity that fits well in this station is a "landmine detector simulation". This consists of a Geiger counter attached to an RC car. The scouts can take turns using the car to look for buried "landmines" (radioactive sources) that you have hidden in a box of sand or under pieces of carpet or paper. Use the included PowerPoint poster (landmine_poster.ppt) to explain the concept of a real landmine detector to the scouts. This event has proven very popular with scouts over the past few years, and gives the scouts something to do when it is not their turn at the measurement station.
This event is fairly straightforward. Use the Nuclear Science Merit Badge pamphlet to construct cloud chambers with the scouts. Pre-made cloud chamber kits can also be purchased at various places online. These generally also come with small sources, such as uranium ore. You will then only need to provide methanol and dry ice for the day of the workshop. The scouts can fill out the provided form (cloud_chamber_station.doc) to help them fulfill requirement 5g.
Visit a local medical or experimental facility where x-rays are generated. As a part of the tour, describe what precautions are taken to protect workers and/or patients from the radiation. As part of this tour, you may want to cover biological effects of radiation (part of Req 1a). A sample PowerPoint presentation (bioeffect.ppt) has been provided to facilitate this discussion. Have the scouts fill out the included form (xray_facility_station.doc) to fulfill requirement 5f.
Use the included PowerPoint presentation (careers_and_faq.ppt) to fulfill requirement 7. Only the first portion of the presentation is needed to fulfill the requirement, but the remainder of the presentation, including the short video, is useful in answering many common questions the scouts and parents have about nuclear technology. Another PowerPoint presentation (fuelcyclebs.ppt) has been included to help aid answering some common questions.
Stations 2, 3, and 4 can all be replaced by other activities from category 5 in the Nuclear Science Merit Badge pamphlet. If one or more of them does not fit your needs, simply replace them with something that will work better for you. For example, there are requirements that allow scouts to build an electroscope, build a reactor model (as discussed above), discuss radon in the home, tour a place where radioisotopes are used, or tour an accelerator.
It is probably most convenient for your workers to bring a lunch, or you could choose to provide lunch for them. This also gives them time to look over the scouts' homework during the lunch break. At the end of the day you may or may not want to have a wrap-up session. In either case, the event leader must sign all of the "blue cards" for the scouts that have completed each of the sessions. Be sure that at least one of your workers has been officially sanctioned by the Boy Scouts of America as a scout leader.
You can download all of the additional resources in one zip archive (resources.zip), or download individual files below.nuclear_science_badge_workshop.doc
Last updated June 5, 2012, 2:50pm CDT.