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Invention lab helps Scouts beat heat, learn entrepreneurship

Boy Scouts at the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation develop a new card game Tuesday. The reservation opened the BSA's first invention lab last month. (Garrett Bergquist)

While mid-Missouri sweltered in near triple-digit heat Tuesday, Boy Scouts at summer camp explored the world of invention in air-conditioned comfort.

The Boy Scouts of America's Great Rivers Council, which serves mid-Missouri, opened an invention lab at Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation last month. It's the first one ever built for the BSA. Council officials said the lab teaches everything from 3-D printing to game design. On Tuesday afternoon, Collin Riley and a handful of other scouts clustered around a table to write a new card game while they worked on their game design merit badge.

"A lot of people thought it was going to be electronics, but I think a lot of people are having fun anyway," he said.

Thomas Yang, the council's Invention Scouts Executive, said the lab is designed to teach entrepreneurship and creativity as well as the more specific skills associated with high-tech applications.

"Scouts will learn what it means to live like an inventor or entrepreneur," he said. "That not only means understanding technology, but also understanding how to be creative, understanding business," he said.


Yang said in the past few years, the BSA has launched merit badges for 3-D modeling, game design, sustainability and graphic arts. The lab is designed to meet the requirements for those badges. In addition, Yang said Scouts have the option to join Invention Scouts, an independent program within the BSA much like the Explorer and Venturing programs. It's open to both boys and girls ages 11 to 21.

In addition to 3-D printers, Yang said the lab includes laser engravers and computer-aided design software.

Riley said he took an interest in the Boy Scouts' game design merit badge because of his love of board games and video games. He said he's thinking about a career in genetics, but games will remain a hobby.

"If it does become my career, I'll be very happy," he said.

In addition to the main invention lab at the camp, Yang said the council has two mobile invention labs that can be taken to events around the state.

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