Monday, December 12, 2016

Boy Scout Merit Badge Clinic encourages exploration

A Boy Scout works with a volunteer
in the Public Service Building 
auditorium at We Energies.
Since 1954, We Energies has hosted the annual Merit Badge Clinic for Boy Scouts. This year’s event took place on Saturday, Dec. 10, in the We Energies Public Service Building Auditorium. The clinic brought together approximately 20 We Energies volunteers to help 50 Boy Scouts ages 12-17 earn electricity merit badges.

Earning a merit badge involves taking a written test on electrical safety and terms, and demonstrating knowledge of practical skills. The scouts study information on electricity and conduct safety audits of their homes before the clinic. They also wire circuits with lights or buzzers or build electric motors as part of independent projects. The clinic brings in energy experts to coach them the rest of the way.

“The scouts walk out qualified for their merit badge by noon,” said Ted Sniegowski, an operations manager at Port Washington Generating Station. Sniegowski has chaired the event for the past ten years. “The clinic helps them achieve skills that aren’t taught in schools anymore, and it opens their eyes to a career in energy.”

Certainly technology has changed since the clinic began in 1954, but its basis remains the same. Some families have had three generations of scouts attend the clinic. Retired employees return to volunteer and keep the tradition going. A few volunteers have even helped at the clinic for more than 40 consecutive years.

Junior Girl Scouts from Troop 8295 at Merit Badge Clinic.
This year marks the beginning of what might become a new tradition: involving Girl Scouts. Sniegowski was approached by Jennifer Rios, sourcing support specialist – finance and a Girl Scout leader, who asked if she might bring a group of interested Girl Scouts to observe. “We jumped at the opportunity and said absolutely,” Sniegowski said.

The Junior Girl Scouts of Troop 8295 are fourth-graders on their “Get Moving” Journey, a project about energy and how it is used, produced and conserved. The Girl Scouts conduct energy audits of their homes and buildings in their communities and interview power-use experts. “The journey culminates with a project to help educate others in our school on the importance of energy and conservation,” Rios said.

Sniegowski is pro-scouting for both boys and girls. He became involved in scouting as an adult through this clinic at We Energies about ten years ago. “Scouting overall encourages exploration in things kids wouldn’t see every day,” he said. “It gives them an opportunity to ask questions and to do things they wouldn’t even think of if it weren’t for scouting.”

Boy Scouts qualified for their electricity merit badges.
Sniegowski hopes to get the Girl Scouts more involved in the years to come, and keep the tradition of the Merit Badge Clinic alive for further generations.

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