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The following article appeared August 10, 2003 in the

 Scouting a New Way

By: Beverly Crichfield
Skagit Valley Herald Staff Writer

Posted
August 10, 2003

    BIG LAKE, WA -- By the time Jonathan Heller finishes his week-long stint at the Fire Mountain Boy Scout Camp, he'll know how a rocket propels into space, all about the first moon landing and how to design a space station.

But first, he'll have to master the techniques of fitting together the plastic and cardboard pieces of his small, round model rocket. Start with the basics, he's told.

Building the rocket shouldn't take long, he said, a couple of hours at the most. But he'll have to successfully launch it to receive his Space Merit Badge at the end of the week.

"It's pretty nifty," Heller said about the rocket, his eyebrows bunching together in concentration as he fitted an elastic shock cord through the model to hold the pieces together. "I know how it works, now."

Welcome to the new world of the Boy Scouts, where knowledge about forest ecosystems, erosion, weather prediction and archaeology have become just as important as the basic lineup of camping and hiking.

First in state

Heller is one of about 900 Boy Scouts in the region who also will be learning about space exploration and weather prediction this year, thanks to a $50,000 donation of equipment from Boca Raton, Fla., businessman Rick Newman.

With the equipment, the Mount Baker Boy Scout Council was able to set up a Science and Technology Center at the 609-acre camp in Walker Valley east of Big Lake.

It's the first science center of its kind in the state.

Eventually, the Scouts hope to coordinate with local schools so students can visit the science center to work with the equipment and supplies, said Jim Hovis, Fire Mountain Camp director.

"It's too big of a resource to keep just for the Boy Scouts," Hovis said. "We really want to share this with the rest of the community."

Advancing science

Newman, who owns video duplication company High-Tech Productions, aims to set up at least one Science and Technology Center in every state as a way to get kids fired up about science.

He's opened 14 centers so far, many of those in schools where kids can gain hands-on knowledge about science and computers.

Newman, 47, said he created the first center at the Ten Mile River Boy Scout Camp in New York, where he attended Scout camp for eight years almost 30 years ago. The Boy Scouts gained a special place in his heart, he said.

"I really wanted to give back," Newman said from his Florida office. "People have this misconception that Scouting is all about cooking, hiking and camping. But now they need to know about high-tech systems and computers."

Shortly after Newman set up the first center, other Boy Scout troops and schools from around the country bombarded him with questions about setting up centers in their towns.

Since then, the program has exploded. Newman uses his connections with customers of his company, including the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the U.S. military and a few archaeologists. He buys microscopes, telescopes, space suits, fossils, digital monitoring systems and weather forecasting systems for Scout troops and schools.

One of those was the Mount Baker Boy Scout Council, an umbrella organization for Boy Scout troops from Snohomish County north to the Canadian border.

Dave Henrichsen, program manager for the Fire Mountain Boy Scout Camp, tapped Newman for some equipment after hearing about the science centers from a friend.

Hands-on learning

The center lets local Scouts touch and see authentic fossils instead of reading about them in books. They can hold different kinds of rocks to learn about geology. And they can track the weather patterns with pinpoint accuracy instead of by guess.

Scouts enclosed the back porch of the Camas Lodge at the camp and have filled it with the items Newman has donated including:

Full-color posters about cloud formations, so Scouts can more easily identify them and forecast the weather.

Fossils for understanding archaeology.

A 27-inch television with a DVD player and dozens of DVDs with educational programming about space exploration.

An official NASA space suit worn by astronauts in training.

A weather station that includes a wind vane, rain gauge, thermometer, wind speed gauge and storm tracker to help Scouts predict storms.

The Scouts used to kept track of storms with a thermometer and what they called "The Rock."

"Basically, you knew it was going to rain if you checked the rock and it was wet," said Scout Ryan Sellers, 16.

Already the storm tracker has come in handy, Henrichsen said.

"It helps keep the scouts safe," Henrichsen said, as he slid his hand along the new Phenomena -- a tall, cylindrical light bulb without filament that buzzes with an electric charge. Henrichsen's fingers act like magnets, attracting the long, glowing strands of electricity as they move up and down the outside of the tube.

"We can see 24 hours in advance if there's going to be a lightning storm," Henrichsen explained. "We don't want the Scouts out in the sailboats with 50-foot masts on the lake during a lightning storm."

Better than lectures

Also included in the donated equipment is an $8,000 high-tech remote nature watching system, (from American Dynamics) which was once used to watch sneaky gamblers in casinos. Now it's aimed at catching images of birds feeding without disturbing the habitat, Henrichsen said.

Other major contributions were five new computers with state-of-the-art geology computer software that -- according to several Boy Scout troop members from Olympia who visited the camp last week -- are much more entertaining than long-winded lectures.

"It makes it so you don't have to listen through classes," said Justin Privette, 13, of Troop 266 from Olympia, as he clicked the mouse to reveal rotating images of quartz on the computer monitor.

The software includes narration about various minerals, rocks and soil and plenty of colorful images.

Privette, his friend Rick Maxwell, 13, and John Canfield, 13, moved through each segment of the computer presentation before getting up to check out the rock and mineral display that was part of Newman's donation.

They wandered around the display, then went out to take a look at Heller's progress on his rocket.

"I think it's gonna work," Heller said, fitting a long, orange piece of ribbon inside the tip of the rocket. "This is great."

For more information about the centers, log onto     www.HighTechScience.org or call (561) 750-7000.

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