Scouts earned hundreds of merit badges at Dresden Station in August. The nuclear energy facility hosted more than 400 people from throughout the region in a day-long, hands-on STEM Merit Badge Clinic.
This is the seventh year in a row for the partnership between Exelon and Boy Scouts of America, which draws Scouts from surrounding towns and much of northern Illinois, as well as Indiana, Michigan, and Wisconsin.
It’s the largest clinic to-date at the station. Scouts, ages 11 to 17, chose from 17 different merit badge categories, including nuclear science, fingerprinting, first aid, and maintenance.
“Kids are actually taking a tire off, actually changing the oil,” said Bryan Schulte, an Instrument Maintenance Control System Technician at Dresden. “We have the facility and the equipment that they can do this in a safe environment.”
While merit badge clinics exist in other places throughout the country, Dresden’s partnership brings a unique element in that it takes place at a nuclear facility. Additionally, parents and Scouts alike praised the level of instructional and institutional knowledge shared by volunteers, many of whom retired from Exelon after decades-long careers.
In addition to being the largest clinic ever, it was the first time girls participated under the guidelines of the recently-revamped and all-inclusive Scouts program.
Schulte organizes the event on behalf of the station and is also scoutmaster of Rainbow Council’s Troop 19, in addition to several other instructional roles within the council. As a father of a son and two daughters, he couldn’t be more excited to welcome the new and eager participants.
“We’re fortunate and very happy to get the girls involved,” he said. “Now my daughters are trying to get the Eagle Scout.”
Of the 288 kids signed up to earn badges, 30 of them were girls.
Sophia Alberti, 13, of Franklin, Wis., tagged along with her older brother to Boy Scout events for four years before getting the opportunity to participate in Scouts this year. It’s the difference between sitting in front of a computer to learn about electronics in Girl Scouts and soldering a circuit board and attaching a battery to illuminate her project, like she did at the Dresden event.
“I love being able to try things that suit my personality better,” Alberti said. "It’s really cool being among the first girls in Scouts. It’s making history and paving the way for other people.”
Scouts could potentially pursue two badges from those available: nuclear science; engineering; electricity; electronics; signs, signals, and codes; first aid; medicine; plumbing; bird study; automotive maintenance; farm mechanics; fire safety; traffic safety; railroading; fingerprinting; pet care; and reptiles and amphibians.
About 100 of the Scouts at Saturday’s clinic camped at the nearby Rainbow Council Scout Camp for the weekend. Dresden Station bussed the scouts from the camp to the station for the day, providing lunch and hours of hands-on educational experience.
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. These two operating Dresden units generate a combined 1,845 net megawatts of electricity, which is enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 1.5 million average American homes.
Rainbow Council – Boy Scouts of America located in Lockport, Ill., serves youth in the Will, Grundy, and Kankakee counties. Rainbow Council operates Rainbow Scout Reserve located outside Morris, Ill. This is a year-round camp facility on 600 acres supporting all Scouting activities.