Author: Rich Strazdas, Senior Software Engineer

Every March, for the last ten years, the Boy Scouts Council covering the greater Lowell area has sponsored a Math Science Technology Expo, which explores careers through Merit Badges. Scouts choose two STEM-related badges out of dozens, ranging from aviation to weather to engineering, and receive six hours of instruction and hands-on participation in those areas. In addition to the training courses, there is a keynote speech from a noted scientist or engineer and a lunch-time exhibition from relevant area businesses.

STEM ExpoAs an active supporter of the Boy Scouts and STEM education, I have volunteered for the past eight years counseling the Astronomy Merit Badge. It’s been a passionate interest of mine for many decades, and I’m thrilled to share my knowledge of constellations, telescopes, eclipses, planetary dynamics, and current research with our youth. I also connect history, language and cultures into the curriculum. While the Merit Badge provides structure, the goal of the expo is introducing Scouts to STEM careers. Each badge involves a field trip, and I typically bring them to MIT’s Haystack Observatory where we can explore the massive radio telescopes involved in atmospheric and planetary and galactic science, space debris tracking and geodesy (measuring the earth).

Each year, twelve eager Scouts select Astronomy as their area of interest. While they all enjoy learning about this area, there are always a few who have a flame that shows they could be successful in any STEM field, and that makes it all worthwhile. I am proud to be involved with helping develop future STEM professionals, and look forward to participating in this area for years to come!