Scouting robots

MARSHALL – They had to get up in the wee hours of the morning in order to earn one of the newest merit badges offered by the Boy Scouts of America, but local Scouts didn’t mind losing some sleep over it.

Ten members of Troop 320 in Marshall received their robotics merit badge Feb. 23 at Washington Pavilion in Sioux Falls, S.D. – Jason Arzdorf, Jared Schmidt, Ryan Nienaber, Nathan Ludwikowski, Collin Noriega, Cole Bot, Justin Chapa, Nick VandeVoort, Tyler Sowden and Cody Sowden.

The robotics merit badge was introduced in fall 2011. According to the Scouting website, earning the robotics merit badge requires a Scout to “understand how robots move (actuators), sense the environment (sensors), and understand what to do (programming); he should demonstrate robot design in building a robot.”

“As a troop, we decided,” said Lonny Sowden, scoutmaster. “It was available at the Washington Pavilion, we wanted to do it.”

And the Scouts were looking forward to giving the robotics merit badge a try.

“They mentioned it at a meeting, and I thought it would be cool to build a robot,” said VandeVoort.

“It looked fun,” Chapa said.

When the Scouts got to the Pavilion at 8 a.m., they spent the first part of the day learning about safety, the different types of robots and different programs. Each Scout got a Lego robot kit.

“It was a lot of learning the first few hours,” Cody Sowden said.

The Scouts received their kits after lunch. Chapa said they had to build, program and test out the robot and fix any flaw that may crop up.

“We were timed on certain things,” Chapa said. The Scouts had an hour to build and program the robots before taking them to the course.

Chapa said the biggest challenge was mostly programming the robot to get it to follow the course.

It took a little doing to get the robots to perform the way the scouts wanted them to, troop members said.

“We did a lot of adjusting and going back and forth from the floor to the computer,” Cody Sowden said.

The robots used a couple of different sensors – touch and light.

“We learned how to engineer a program to do a direct task with either sensors or just programming,” Cody Sowden said.