The Scout electronics badge sponsored by the IET

How easy is it to do the Electronics badge with young people?

  • For those that are not part of the Scouting Mafia like I am, it may help  to mention that the formal requirements of the badge are here

    Like a lot of the scouting hobbyist badges (like shooting, archery, horse riding etc) it is not reasonable to expect all youngsters from age ten to 14  to be able to do it to the same degree, nor will all 20 odd youngsters in a typical troop even want to do so, and that is not the aim.

    Equally some will exceed your expectation by miles. There are a few Scouts in my district with an amateur radio licence as well as this on their sleeves, but none in my group.

    Oddly I have never done this badge with my group, but  I know fellow engineers who are also leaders who have have, with varying approaches and slightly mixed results. What follows is based on conversations with them. Having said that I have run Morse and pig pen based 'spy' events with an electrical construction aspect (running down the field with a reel of jumper cable and making a few twisted joints in the right sequence to intercept a message), and am always surprised how fast some youngsters pick very technical things up, and also by how others just never seem to. 

    Ideally you need to sort the sheep from the goats a bit and have quite small groups of more or less equal ability, and especially for less mature groups, perhaps splitting things out over a few weeks of a few short sessions interleaved with another activity on the same meeting. 
    I know others have done  a quick intro chat to the whole group at once, and then take a patrol (4-6 youngsters  one of whom is Patrol Leader - PL and usually the oldest) aside at a time  for the more detailed like the uses of a multi-meter.

    Equally, others have made it a "PLS and APLs only" special thing, so in effect only the older ones, or made optional so  those who do not want to can do something else, but if you do that, then I caution that the something else needs not to be too attractive or you have no takers ;-)

    As regards building things, stuff that makes a noise, flashes or gives you small shocks (stay below 1 joule !) seem to be popular.

    I know of at least one group that did a load of Arduino programming and another that made LED torches but made a big thing of the resistor values and setting the current- mileage varies.

    I need to find someone who has really made use of the IET support material here - so far I have not, but I'm sure someone out there will have.

    In common with many organizations involving volunteers, Scouts at local level varies widely in the degree of adherence (or not) to what the salaried folk at HQ thinks they ought to be doing. No two groups are alike, as it tends to follow the characters of the leaders available and the local youngsters, so  there are some more indoor groups, groups that seem to do lots of outdoor cooking and bivying, groups that are a quite youth-club like and play a lot of games, and others that seem to rival the local army cadets for marching and shouting - and of course the youngsters that stick in any given group are the ones it suits, so there tends to be positive feedback to that division - which actually is one of the reasons I like to run occasional district events where different groups  meet and it mixes the styles a little. ... The trick is always to make it work with what you have rather than impose something that does not really fit.

    I'd be very interested to hear how you get on.

    Regards Mike

    (an Assistant  Scout Leader  (ASL) in Hampshire )

  • I'll come from another angle to Mike, in that I've not been involved with the Scout movement since I was one (in the 1970s!), but I have done a lot of electronics with young people from over the whole school range from 5 to 18. 

    Having followed the link Mike posted, I'd suggest a key is to follow the 8 sample activities. I used to do activities very closely similar to these with 10-11 year olds (the component identification and logic gate description were the two that I'd make simpler at that age), let alone the older ones, and they worked fine. The trick I found is to keep it simple. Make sure each step is really easy to debug - so first a batter, motor, and switch, then add a relay, then maybe an ldr in series with the relay, etc As Mike says, some will get way more into it, particularly if you get into programming.

    Oddly, I found it much harder doing activities like this with 14-15 year olds, they tended to give up much more easily!

    But for those who stick with it, my experience is that they find it incredibly satisfying when they build something and get it working.

    Good luck,


  • I have a current Scout. When we joined, the troop leaders asked what badges we might be interested in doing and might already have some evidence for. We did look at the Electronics badge and quickly discounted it.

    It should be noted that in order to achieve the Chief Scouts Gold Badge you need to complete 6 activity badges, but otherwise achieving the badges comes down to the interests of the Scout involved and the leaders to run the activity. Given that Scouts focus on outdoors activities (camping, hiking, etc) the were already covering ample badges.

    It comes down to enough people in the troop and the leaders themselves being interested in the badge. In our case, the troop has a very outdoors bias and tended to focus on sports and games if trapped inside by the weather (and crafty type activities only when trapped online by covid).

    Compare with some other badges, this one is very involved! There is some specialised equipment required. Some of the online materials on the Scouts website looked a little dated and it would of been an effort to tailor it for what we had to hand (RPi's and Codebugs). So we left it to focus on some easier badges.

    So the answer to the question - it looked difficult enough that we didn't do it

  • Interesting,  in our group we encourage scouts to do their own thing, and very few have as few as 6 badges on their sleeves - that's about what they do with us in the troop meetings per year - the rest, the photography, the horse riding, swimming, ballet, the playing a trombone whatever it is, they do at home and bring the evidence in, and for the more interesting ones they talk about it to the rest of the troop. Its not that uncommon for keen ones to almost need extensible sleeves for all the badges they have acquired by age 14  and a half. Equally some never manage more than the one or two per term that happen during the weekly meetings.

    But as I said above groups really do vary a lot and

    " ... tend to follow the characters of the leaders available and the local youngsters, so  there are some more indoor groups, groups that seem to do lots of outdoor cooking and bivying, groups that are a quite youth-club like and play a lot of games, and others that seem to rival the local army cadets for marching and shouting .."

    It would be interesting but sadly almost impossible to find out, how many of these badges are completed per year over the country. As far as I know there is no mechanism for centrally recording badges awarded, except the very high level stuff like Chief scouts awards etc - which are set at a level that most Scouts never achieve, and only a few youngsters per troop are awarded that per year, but they do get to meet the Lord Mayor at the presentation..

    ( Well, round here at least  - perhaps in another county nearly everyone gets it ;-)  - standardized it certainly ain't. )


  • Wow! I missed this the first time around, but it doesn't sound easy for old people never mind young ones. :-)

  • Haha Chris,- what makes you assume that activities should be made easier for Scouts than they would be for adults ? I find youngsters of Scout age quite capable of doing many thing their parents would never dream of trying, and in some cases probably most adults could not manage...

    The idea behind these badges is to be worthwhile, and to do that also means it involves quite a bit of effort.  The survival-skills one for example I like doing with our youngsters would cause most parents to to struggle.

     Given your background, what do you think to the difficulty of this one air-or-sea-navigation   I think there are a few adults who would struggle.


  • I find youngsters of Scout age quite capable of doing many thing their parents would never dream of trying, and in some cases probably most adults could not manage

    Absolutely second that!!!! When I was involved in STEM education, probably the biggest battles I had (and our superb local STEMNET coordinator had) was trying to persuade adults, including sadly often teachers, that just because they didn't understand how to solve a challenge didn't mean the kids weren't going to work it out. On the flip side, the really inspirational teachers I came across in this work tended to be those who were keen to learn new skills themselves, but accepted that often the kids would pick them up quicker than they would. 

    I don't know if our capacity to learn genuinely does drop off as we get older, or whether it's just that we get too distracted by other things - I suspect that one of the big advantages kids have (at least up to mid / late teens) is that they'll .often happily have a go at things just to have a go at them, rather than over-thinking "what's the point" and having a beer instead!

  • A small number, maybe 1 or 2 of my sons troop get the Gold each year, but interestingly it gets presented by the Scout Leader or maybe the Group Scout Leader if you are lucky. Definitely not the Lord Mayor.

    Once the child is in their final year as a Scout, the troop leaders look at where they are and have a push to get them to the gold. I think if they didn't do that it would be likely that no-one would achieve it most years.

    My son is in explorers now, so it will be interesting to see what difference that makes. I suspect their focus will be primarily on DoE.