Submitted by: Jim Boyce, Ph.D.
The National Capital Area Council (NCAC) has just recognized eight Webelos Scouts from Potomac District Pack 1280 for earning the Dr. Charles H. Townes Supernova Award. These scouts, have been working together within the Webelos Program on the award requirements for 18 months (Summer 2019 to Spring 2021). Their Mentor, Dr. Jim P. Boyce, who has been serving as a NOVA Mentor and Counselor for almost a decade in the NCAC, says that this was his largest group of scouts to earn this award yet.
Each scout developed their own science or engineering project to fulfill one of the nine requirements of this award and then presented their projects throughout the hypothesis, testing and results stages to each other and their Mentor.
All the scouts participated regularly in NCAC STEM programs including the 2020 Labor Day weekend STEM-a-Thon, the 2020-2021 STEM at Home speaker series and the 2020 William D. Boyce Potomac District Scout Chess Tournament. Scouts met with scientists and engineers from NASA, NIH and Astra Zeneca to learn about careers and also shared their STEM projects at local school and independent Regional Science Fairs. One scout entered their Townes project in the 2020 Rockville Regional Science fair and earned 1st place for age and 2nd place overall. Collectively this Cadre of scouts has previously earned 28 NOVA Awards from 2016 to 2021 with several different Counselors and one previously earned the Louise Alvarez Supernova Award in a Cadre in 2017.
The projects were exceptional in their creativity and spanned the fields of chemistry, environmental biology, microbiology, and physics. For example, Webelos Matthew B. used local soil bacteria that he aerosol- sprayed over agar Petri dishes and that were protected with different types of face masks to quantitate the effect of mask material on prevention of transmission of germs. Webelos Matthew Z. demonstrated the principal of radioactive decay. Webelos John L. and Leo P. studied different properties of liquids under different conditions. Webelos Ethan M. studied the ability of soil microorganisms to decompose different types of materials. Webelos Ethan N. studied solar energy and the effect of different wavelengths and intensities of light at charging a battery connected to a solar panel. Webelos Landon E. made a study out of measuring the elasticity of polymers made from different combinations of monomers. And Webelos Victor T. studied the Ideal Gas Law by taking balloons with him on an elevation gain hike in the Rocky Mountains to measure their volume under different atmospheric conditions.
The ceremony was conducted April 17, 2021 at a masked, small group, outdoor campfire ceremony at Locust Grove Nature Center in Bethesda MD. All of these scouts also earned their Arrow of Light Rank at about the same time as finishing their Supernova requirements and are continuing together in their journey in scouting by crossing into Scouts BSA, after two more planned campouts together this Spring as Webelos.