A staple of the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) program, merit badges are awards that have been around for nearly 100 years. And the National Council, a corporate membership made up of both paid professional Scouters and volunteer Scouters, takes them very seriously. The group meets once a year to review and update the badges, each of which has its own accompanying pamplet that contains information on badge requirements.
So popular are those tiny discs of cloth that the idea of badges has carried over into the virtual world -- and outside of the scouting program. Today, millions of people check in to locations on Foursquare in part because they want to earn digital badges that closely resemble the traditional circle badge we've all seen sewn across a Scouts' chest.
Today, there are more than 120 different Boy Scouts badges, including ones for camping, cycling, surveying, hiking, coin collecting, swimming, railroading, golf, leatherwork, Indian lore, geology, and more. But many of them are outdated, as that list, a representative sample, clearly indicates. In an effort to promote science, technology, engineering and mathematics, the National Council, on Tuesday, April 12, will formally announce a new badge for 2011 that pushes the Boy Scouts in a new direction. To earn the Robotics badge, a scout will need to demonstrate knowledge of robot construction and programming.