Local Boy Scouts first in world to get programming merit badge

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CUMMING, Ga. — As thousands of metro-Atlanta students return to the classroom, many teachers will be asking them what they did over the summer.

Two Forsyth County students can say they worked on building their math and science skills and received national recognition for it.

Corey Philbrook and Patrick Clapp from Boy Scout Troop 245 in Cumming braved the weather, the hike and the crowds at the National Scout Jamboree to become two of the first 50 Boy Scouts in the world to receive the new Programming Merit Badge.

Rick Folea, a senior technical marketer at AutomationDirect, an industrial controls company, was team leader of the group that developed the merit badge for the Scouts.

“We understand the importance of getting young minds excited about programming and factory automation … and maybe someday making a career out of it,” Folea said.

The team was made up of professionals from around the country and included representatives from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Lockheed Martin and Chrysler.

Folea said the decision to offer the badge was because programming is everywhere these days and because the Boy Scouts are all about preparing youth for life, so the two were a perfect match.

During the badge’s launch at the Jamboree, Folea and his team saw more than 800 Scouts — many of whom waited in the rain for a chance to earn the new badge.

“There was a non-stop demand,” said Folea. “We had Scouts coming through representing 49 of the 50 states and 13 Scouts from overseas.”

First among them all was Philbrook, who made sure his picture was taken with the merit badge and the electronic sign showing he was the first Scout served.

His fellow Scout, Clapp, earned his badge just a short time later.

“I still can’t believe I’m the first Scout in the world to receive this badge,” said Philbrook. “I’m very interested in technology. When I heard that the Boy Scouts were offering this, I jumped at the chance.”

In an effort to get kids more interested in math, science and programming, the Boy Scouts of America introduced the new badge that allows Scouts to learn how programming makes digital devices useful and fun.

To earn the badge, Scouts navigate through the steps offered on their webpage (boyslife.org/programming). They have to write three programs in three programming languages in three different industries, including the web, games, embedded controls, factory automation and more.