The Inventing merit badge: Good news for U.S. engineering?

Complain no longer that the U.S. is not doing enough to interest kids in science and engineering. DS SolidWorks Corp. is providing a special version of its CAD software to support Boy Scouts working toward a new merit badge that rewards innovation. The company has also helped the Boy Scouts of America (BSA) develop the official instructional pamphlet and will promote mentoring of young inventors through its 1.3 million-strong user community.

The BSA, in partnership with the Lemelson-Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Program, recently introduced the Inventing merit badge, designed to encourage Scouts to apply creative thinking toward solving real-world problems.

DS SolidWorks is providing five-month licenses for a kit to help Scouts design their projects in 3D. The kit includes SolidWorks 3D CAD and SolidWorks SustainabilityXpress software. An included tutorial explains how to use the software and a practice exercise on designing a part. Scouts can learn drawing, assembly, and animation, and then calculate the product's environmental footprint. The temporary license is available as a free download at to any Scout working toward the badge.

“We hope this initiative will lead to mentoring relationships between design community professionals and Scouts interested in design and engineering,” says Marie Planchard, director of worldwide education at DS SolidWorks. “You never know when the next Thomas Edison is out there waiting for encouragement.”

The Inventing merit badge was awarded for the first time on June 17 at EurekaFest, an annual event at MIT, which celebrates the inventive spirit. To earn the badge, Scouts created a wide range of new products such as a warning flag for wheelchair ramps, boot-mounted lights for nighttime hiking, and a guard to keep rocks and sticks out of lawn mower blades.

At the recent unveiling of SolidWorks 2011, Planchard said that a similar badge for Girl Scouts is in the works.

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