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21/09/2014

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Boreatton Scout Troop

Boreatton Scout Troop have been involved with CREST Awards since 2009, during which time the group have carried out numerous Bronze and Silver projects, and been invited to showcase their work at the finals of the National Science + Engineering Competition. Scout leader Alan Herbert shares his experience of carrying out CREST Award projects with the scouts.

Why did you get involved with CREST Awards?

The scouts enjoy practical science and engineering activities, and so we have entered schools competitions as a scout group for the last few years. Most of these competitions are open to other youth groups besides schools (to include home educated etc.) and generally welcome us. The CREST Awards are an opportunity to encourage longer term commitment to a project than our usual troop nights so we run them within an activity club - Boreatton Engineering and Science Team  (BEST!)

We have used the First Lego League (FLL) competitions, Scalextric for Schools and Scout Pedal car racing as themes for the activity club. The club runs for a few hours a week, although when competition deadlines approach, we often run all day 'drop-in' sessions to allow those that want to do any additional work on their project, the opportunity to do so.

This means that we generally complete a CREST Silver Award level of involvement in about a term. We focus on practical science and engineering rather than written contributions as that's what scouts do!

What kind of projects do you do?

It is quite mixed depending on what the scouts come up with! For this year’s FLL Lego Robotics competition, the theme is food security and we are researching raspberry preservation.

We have been investigating controlled atmosphere packaging, so reducing the oxygen and increasing the CO2 to see if raspberries last longer! Now we are collecting pure O2 and CO2 by electrolysis of caustic soda solutions and yeast fermentation to combine with Helium.

Alongside this they are learning quite sophisticated programming in Legos NXT-G graphical programming environment and developing robust Lego models with sensors to auto correct the robot navigation on the set challenge table. As we were researching Raspberries, we were interested in the RaspberryPi computer and contacted the RaspberryPi foundation who gave us one of the first - the scouts have been investigating the new computer at the development stage and writting programmes in Scratch.

Last year they wrote a paper for the Oswestry Orthopaedic Hospitals University post-doc research day and presented it alongside academics showing an EEG thought controlled Lego hand .They worked with a software developer in the US to modify his software and integrate it with the Lego NXT-G environment, hacked the wiring of the Lego NXT robot to send power to a relay board in place of Lego Motors and used Nitinol wire for muscles in a Lego hand

A couple of years ago we looked at climate change and decided that one of the risks was decline in bee populations. The scouts paid their pocket money into a share subscription to set up a company manufacturing bee houses. They ran the board, produced 50 or more bee houses and sold them, earning a dividend of 200% donating about £100 to the local wildlife trust and then sold the company as a going concern at the initial share price.

How do you think you benefited from being a part of the CREST Award experience?

The scouts get recognition of their achievements, which is a good demonstration of their motivation and commitment for their CV when applying to sixth form.

I personally have a lot of fun! That’s why scout leaders volunteer! The opportunity to take them to national finals, and to represent their country in international events is a privilege. I have always admired the US Science fairs and the CREST Awards help us do similar activities here.

What is the best thing about your young people doing a CREST Award?

Seeing the scouts’ enthusiasm in subjects that I personally enjoy, and seeing the confidence they gain from succeeding in a big open ended project.

Any wise words to youth groups thinking of undertaking CREST Awards as part of their activiites?

A long term project is a great opportunity to allow young people to develop their own ideas so do not try and guide them to directly. They are just as bright and imaginative as adults – all they lack is the experience about practicalities so we tend to filter their ideas to find what profitable directions they can pursue from amongst their ideas. They muck about a lot and make a lot of noise, but they enjoy themselves and they do make progress! It’s OK to have some meetings where there is more mucking about than progress so long as there are some where they work hard! They do commit and come to extra sessions as deadlines approach. If they are mucking about too much, it’s generally because they’ve got stuck and need a bit of help to get going again.