ROCKWOOD (WATE) - UT-Battelle, the managing contractor for Oak Ridge National Laboratory, announced Thursday a substantial financial gift to the Boy Scouts.
In recent years, there has been an increased emphasis recently on science, technology, engineering and math in schools. Just last year, Knox County Schools opened its standalone L&N Stem Academy.
Along Watts Bar Lake, Camp Buck Toms isn't the same Boy Scout camp your father attended. The camp, now in its 57th year, is more than halfway through a $4 million capital improvement campaign.
In campsites, permanent wooden cabins have replaced canvas tents, real bathrooms with hot running water have replaced outhouses and even a hard-paved road circles the camp.
There are traditional merit badges the scouts work on, and they'll always be available, but soon new educational opportunities will open up for the boys.
ORNL Director Thom Mason toured the Great Smoky Mountain Council Camp on Thursday.
At Battelle, they're focusing on community outreach and want to establish science classrooms at the camp.
Council Executive Larry Brown accepted a $150,000 corporate gift to the Boy Scouts, which will be used for STEM activities.
"We're aware of the fact that not all science education takes place in the classroom," Mason said. "You see that with robotic competition and with scouting. There is a strong tradition here that goes on with ecology and the environment and looking at advanced materials, we want to be a part of that."
"We have some traditional merit badges that we've done for years like environmental science, nature, mammal study," Brown said. "They're badges scouts have earned since the 1930s. We're expanding that to composite materials, engineering, robotics, nuclear science. All these are new and exciting badges."
The gift will go toward renovating the camp's training center, where scouts will earn merit badges in science and technology-related areas. For scouts and scout leaders, the gift will make a big difference.
"Times have changed," said John Higdon, a camp counselor. "It's not knots and ropes all the time. It's wires and motherboards, definitely a big difference."
The new and expanded STEM-related activities at the Boy Scout camp will start next year.
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