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With the help of the APS Division of Nuclear Physics (DNP) Education Committee, the Boy Scouts of America has revised its Atomic Energy merit badge program. The new merit badge, now called “Nuclear Science,” updates the program and increases the emphasis on science.
Howard Matis, a nuclear physicist at Lawrence Berkeley Lab and member of the DNP Education Committee, noticed that the Atomic Energy merit badge program needed updating when a local scout troop visited his lab.
Matis has been involved with the Boy Scouts for a long time. He is an Eagle Scout (though he never earned the Atomic Energy merit badge), and now has a son who is a Boy Scout.
He and the DNP Education Committee wrote to the Boy Scouts of America, offering to help revise the handbook, which was outdated and in some cases, simply wrong. It turned out that BSA was already in the process of updating the badge. Matis was able to serve as an advisor.
The old Atomic Energy badge program focused on engineering, and did not emphasize the science enough, said Matis. “We wanted to put science back into the requirements.” He worked with a writer to help make sure the science in the new booklet was correct and included the most modern model of the nucleus. He also added some information, including a description of a career as a nuclear scientist.
The new Nuclear Science handbook is an 88-page booklet that covers nuclear science at a level accessible to 14-year olds with little prior knowledge. It includes topics such as the history of nuclear science, modern atomic models, particle accelerators, radiation and its uses, nuclear energy, and careers related to nuclear science.
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