Web-Exclusive! A Meritorious Experience

September 1, 2007
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A group of Boy Scouts at this year’s Merit Badge University learn how to use a total station to earn a Surveying Merit badge.


This past January, 14 members of the Sequoyah Council of the Boy Scouts of America gathered at East Tennessee State University (ETSU) and received a badge unlike others obtained for Eagle Scout status: the Surveying Merit Badge. At the council’s 8th annual Merit Badge University, a one-day program offering Boy Scouts an opportunity to earn the final badges that are required for Eagle Scout status, the surveying badge category was offered for the first time.

Once Eagle Scout status has been obtained, the scouts have the option of earning the Eagle Palm status before they reach the age of 18. This year’s Merit Badge University provided more than 200 scouts with an opportunity to obtain these prestigious ranks, with a variety of badges offered in subjects including chemistry, dentistry, astronomy-and surveying.

Personnel from Hayes Instrument of Shelbyville, Tenn., participated in the Surveying Merit Badge and helped demonstrate the advancement of surveying using GPS to the group of scouts.

Positive Exposure

A total of 14 scouts stepped forward at the event and committed to earning their Surveying Merit Badges. ETSU college students and faculty members, along with local professionals from the Northeast Chapter of the Tennessee Association of Professional Surveyors (TAPS) and the Southwest Chapter of the Virginia Association of Surveyors (VAS), volunteered to attend the Merit Badge University and to assist the scouts in their pursuit of the Surveying Merit Badge.

Joe Connelly, RLS, surveyor and Eagle Scout, volunteered as an instructor for the event. According to Connelly, the common scout motto “be prepared” has helped him in his everyday life and surveying business. “Being in the Boy Scout Program exposes [you] to facets of life and can help [you] decide what to do in the future,” Connelly says. “The [Merit Badge] program gives the scouts exposure to different professions that they would not normally receive .”

A Badge of Effort

To earn the Surveying Merit Badge, scouts were placed in groups of three to four students and were required to complete a full-day course consisting of fieldwork, lectures and classroom exercises. Throughout the day, the young scholars learned about surveying through modern applications and uses, such as total stations, electronic data collectors, GPS receivers and digital levels. The scouts also spoke with several licensed surveyors about what it takes to become a surveyor.

The first task the scouts faced as part of their fieldwork was to close a five-sided traverse and locate specific features. The scouts were then instructed to run a level loop through their traverse. Each group obtained excellent results on both exercises. There was no shortage of excitement from the scouts as each learned their excellent closure results, earning a portion of their badge.

Hayes Instrument Company of Shelbyville, Tenn., also participated in the event and provided total stations and levels for the fieldwork. Onsite personnel from Hayes helped demonstrate the advancement of surveying using GPS. RTK GPS units were used to show how fast the scouts’ fieldwork could have been achieved with the latest technology. This demonstration showed the scouts how useful the latest technologies are to the surveying profession. In the classroom, the scouts were taught how to research property deeds and write legal descriptions. Subsequently, each group of scouts was given the task of creating a scaled drawing of their field traverses using a protractor and scale. The classroom exercises were key to the day’s lesson because the scouts were able to experience the profession firsthand in a collegiate environment.



As part of their fieldwork, the scouts were required to to close a five-sided traverse and record the data in their fieldbooks.

An Eye-opening Experience

Although badges in other fields require scouts to complete only a half-day course, the group of scouts of the Sequoyah Council felt that the long day and hard work was worth completing for the Surveying Merit Badge. All 14 scouts successfully achieved their badges and said they were pleased with their experiences.

Scout Brian Whetsel walked away from the experience wanting to learn more about surveying in the field to see if it might be the right path for his future career.“I think surveying would be pretty fun,” Whetsel said. “You get to visit a lot of places and meet new people.”

After achieving his badge and attending the lessons, scout Curtis Buckles was more confident about what the surveying profession has to offer. “It just sounded fun,” Buckles said. “[Surveying] sounded like it would be something neat to do. You never know what you want to do as a career.”

Scout David Clayton now knows what goes on when he passes a surveyor working alongside the road or on a construction site. “It was fun,” he said after working in the field. “It sounded cool and I wanted to know what surveyors were doing [on the jobsites].”



Forward Progression

The goal of including surveying as a badge category for the scouts was to make the earning of the badge an event that was both fun and educational, as well as a way to expose the scouts to the surveying profession. Those involved in this year’s Surveying Merit Badge, including members of the surveying profession, the Boy Scouts, and ETSU students and faculty, all felt that the inclusion of the badge in this year’s program was well worth the hard work. As surveying professionals, each instructor came to the event with the hope of positively exposing the surveying profession as well as the surveying curriculum offered in a collegiate environment like ETSU.

“I felt both honored and privileged to work with such a great team of fellow instructors in helping the scouts obtain their Surveying Merit Badges,” says Jeff Wilder, surveyor and instructor at the event. “The satisfaction of seeing these young men gain an understanding of surveying fundamentals and what surveyors do was very rewarding. Opportunities like this provide us with an excellent chance to sow the seeds for the next generation of surveyors.”

Plans to offer the Surveying Merit Badge at next year’s Merit Badge University are already underway. Instructors from this year’s event are promoting their experiences with the Surveying Merit Badge and encouraging other scout troops to offer the badge in their areas. “I encourage all surveyors to participate in any educational venue that promotes surveying to the public and that promotes future surveyors who will follow in our footsteps,” Wilder adds.

Maybe this is the exposure some people need to realize their future in surveying.

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