following article appeared August 10, 2003 in the
a New Way
Skagit Valley Herald Staff Writer
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
"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
"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."
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
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
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.
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
Full-color posters about cloud
formations, so Scouts can more easily identify them and forecast the
Fossils for understanding archaeology.
A 27-inch television with a DVD player
and dozens of DVDs with educational programming about space
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
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
"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.