With 3D printers, laser engraving equipment and computer-aided design software and machines at the Sinquefield Invention Lab, it’s no wonder Scouts in Missouri’s Great Rivers Council have been able to make some pretty cool stuff, like action figures, robots and computers.
“In terms of things created, there are honestly too many to count,” says Thomas Yang, who oversees the program based at the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation.
The pilot program launched a few years ago on an idea from Great Rivers Council board member Jeanne Sinquefield, Scoutmaster Steve Goldstein, and Steve’s son Sam. The three had made a pocket-size chess set together and thought there should be more opportunities for Scouts to be innovative and creative. So, they worked on outfitting a 24-foot trailer with equipment that could be wheeled to schools, council events and Scout camp — a mobile invention lab.
More than STEM
With some of the lab’s high-tech equipment, you’d think this program only focuses on inventing, electronics and engineering, but the Sinquefield Invention Lab offers so much more. The program can cater to almost 30 merit badges, including Salesmanship, Woodwork and Farm Mechanics.
Leaders teach youth not only how to make something, but how they can use it in the real world. So, they teach about patents and trademarks, and how to be business leaders in their communities.
“What we didn’t expect was how easily we could integrate it into Cub and Scouts BSA programs,” Sinquefield says. “We’re doing new things that have never been done before.”
Sinquefield and her husband’s charitable foundation was the linchpin for the lab’s launch. What started as a single trailer is now two trailers and multiple climate-controlled buildings at the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation in Gravois Mills, Mo. The 6,000-square-foot lab and woodworking building at the camp hosts invention weekend events throughout the year: Cub Scout NOVA family camps, Order of the Arrow lock-ins and summer events for adults. This September, more Scouts will be introduced to the program as the Lake of the Ozarks Scout Reservation will host an Invention Jamboree.
The camp recently broke ground on another building to house two forges for blacksmithing, welding and metalworking activities. Future plans include adding a plasma cutter.
“Many of the Scouts who come to our camp have little to no experience with our cutting-edge equipment,” Yang says. “However, once they master the knowledge, you notice that their confidence goes up significantly. And from there, the ideas come forth.”
And, of course, some of those ideas are a lot of fun, like inventing new games, some of which involved stick-horse races and drone races. One Scout made a chess set, which is now in the World Chess Hall of Fame.
“Each year the program gets better, as staff and volunteers come up with new ideas for using the equipment, and integrating the program with traditional Scouting,” Sinquefield says.
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