Joseph Mercado sees every hands-on experience with machines as one step closer to his goal of becoming an engineer.
On Saturday, Aug. 11, the 16-year-old from Chicago changed the cabin filter on a John Deere tractor at Dresden Station in Morris – notching another badge and experience. Mercado was just one of 320 Boy Scouts and guests who traveled from all over the region to attend the Exelon and Boy Scouts of America – Rainbow Council’s STEM Merit Badge Clinic.
Teens ages 11 to 17 worked with 40 Dresden employees who volunteered their time to teach the boys electrical, plumbing, mechanical maintenance and more – with a total of 14 merit badges to earn.
“Ever since I was a young kid, I have worked on cars and engines and other projects with my dad,” Mercado said. “Being at the clinic is another great experience to add to that and one day being an engineer.”
Joseph Mercado, 16, of Chicago, changes a cabin air filter on a tractor used for mowing at Dresden Station’s STEM Merit Badge Clinic Saturday.
The clinic at Dresden – the largest to-date - was part of a bigger gathering at the nearby Rainbow Council Scout Camp. Dresden Station bussed the scouts from the camp to the station for the day, providing lunch and hours of hands-on educational experience.
Boys learned about how to change brake pads with the use of an Exelon truck typically used by Dresden Security to patrol the grounds. In the electricity badge clinic in Dresden’s training building, Dresden supervisor Lisa Nichtula led a group of boys in making a DC Motor with a wood block, battery, magnet, electrical tape and a metal coil.
Dresden Station Mechanic Jonathan Eggman teaches the plumbing merit badge clinic, helping a Boy Scout how to cut, measure and solder a copper pipe using a blowtorch.
“We’re lucky to have so many resources here,” event organizer and Dresden employee Bryan Schulte said. “It’s exciting to be able to share them with these boys who are all so eager to learn.”
In the plumbing merit badge clinic next door, Dresden mechanic Jonathan Eggman taught each boy how to cut, measure and solder a copper pipe using a blowtorch.
“They might never do this again in their homes, but they’ll know how it’s done,” he said, applauding the level of engagement from the scouts and parent chaperones alike.
Grundy County Sheriff’s office taught kids to navigate a golf cart between cones and about accelerating and braking on an ATV as part of a traffic safety badge. Officers also taught a fingerprinting badge clinic.
A Grundy County Sheriff’s office employee instructs a Boy Scout how to drive an ATV as part of earning the traffic safety merit badge.
Badges available to earn: nuclear science, engineering, electricity, electronics, radio, first aid, medicine, plumbing, bird study, automotive maintenance, farm mechanics, fire safety, traffic safety, and fingerprinting.
While working on a tractor normally reserved for mowing Dresden’s many acres (and earing his 112th merit badge in farm mechanics), the junior at St. Ignatius College Prep school in Chicago reflected on his layered connection to Exelon. He’s a beneficiary of a scholarship from the Big Shoulders Fund, a nonprofit organization that provides access to quality education, in part through donations from Exelon.
Through Big Shoulders’ STEM programs, Mercado has learned about prosthetics, created a moving robot simulated on mars, and learned to maintain the temperature of an eco-friendly model house fictionally set in Asia.
Pulling up to Dresden Station and seeing the Exelon logo brought a huge smile to Joseph’s face. It’s a familiar and comforting sight.
“Exelon has always just been there for me – it’s been there every day,” he said.
Dresden Generating Station, located in rural Grundy County in Northern Illinois, is home to the nation's first full-scale, privately financed nuclear power plant, which began operation in 1960. Capable of generating 210 megawatts of electricity before its retirement in 1978, Dresden Unit 1 is designated a Nuclear Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society. Dresden Units 2 and 3 began commercial operation in June 1970 and November 1971, respectively.
The units generate a combined 1,845 net megawatts of electricity, which is enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 1 million average American homes.
Rainbow Council – Boy Scouts of America located in Lockport, IL., serves youth in the Will, Grundy, and Kankakee counties. Rainbow Council operates Rainbow Scout Reserve located outside Morris, IL. This is a year around camp facility on Six Hundred (600) acres supporting all Scouting activities.