TTU's 18th annual Merit Badge University draws nearly 500 Boy Scouts, 200 adult leadersIt was merit badges — not educational degrees — that attracted nearly 500 young men to Tennessee Tech University on Saturday, Jan. 25.
The university, in partnership with the Upper Cumberland District of the Boy Scouts of America, will host its 18th annual Merit Badge University on Saturday, with troops coming from as far away as Georgia and Kentucky.
"Merit Badge University allows Boy Scouts to participate in one of more than 30 professional skill centers — such as archaeology, engineering, cinematography, crime prevention and citizenship, just to name a few," said Dennis George, director of TTU’s Center for the Management, Utilization and Protection of Water Resources and counselor for this year’s engineering skill center.
"Boys who are well prepared, as the Boy Scout motto stipulates, can earn a merit badge at the end of the day," he continued.
Scouts who participate in the engineering skill center, for example, will learn basic engineering principles by studying blueprints of the new residence hall being constructed on campus and visiting the construction site.
"They’ll get to talk to professional engineers, who’ll explain the various types of engineering to them, and do projects to teach them how to apply basic engineering principles to everyday life," George said.
Other skill centers will provide similar activities, while nearly 200 troop leaders and other adult supervisors attend a daylong "adult scouter" conference for information about additional resources and activities.
"Every year, I marvel at how successfully this program brings together not only Boy Scouts and university faculty and staff, but also student volunteers, community leaders and other professionals. It’s a true community event," George said.
TTU’s first Merit Badge University was held in 1986, after geology professor Wayne Leimer got the idea from similar programs in other states.
"I saw the university as a great resource for the scouts," Leimer said.
Although a few other colleges and universities offer similar programs, TTU’s Merit Badge University remains one of the largest and most comprehensive in the state.