Pretty soon, the Girl Scouts may be as well known for prepping girls for careers in robotics and software coding as it is for its cookies.
The American youth organization is expanding its STEM — science, technology, engineering and math — program. Soon the organization’s 1.8 million scouts will be able to earn badges in robotics, coding, engineering, and cybersecurity.
“We’ve seen girls being users of technology but not necessarily programmers, and robotics is a great way to learn how to code,” said Sylvia Acevedo, CEO of the Girl Scouts. “It lets girls have a fun experience with friends while learning a skill.”
The organization will unveil 23 new badges on Tuesday. They’ll range in scope and skill level, from the Daisy-level “What Robots Do” to the Junior-level “Programming Robots.” The Girl Scouts plans to unveil 18 more badges, all focused on cybersecurity, between now and 2019.
Acevedo, an engineer herself, said her experience building a rocket while in Girl Scouts inspired her to pursue a career in tech. She spent a long time in the industry, including stints at NASA, Apple, IBM, and Dell.
Now, as CEO of the Girl Scouts, she gets to help design and choose programs she hopes will work in the same way, inspiring girls to choose STEM careers.
“[These girls] want to be hackers. They want to protect against cybersecurity and cyberterrorism. They want to do that kind of coding,” Acevedo said. “If you think about it, that’s solving a problem in their community — and that’s the core of what we do at Girl Scouts.”
While technically you have to be a child to participate in the Girl Scouts, anyone can enjoy a slideshow. Here are some of the new badges in the collection and what scouts have to do to earn them.
What Robots Do
This Daisy-level badge helps kindergartners and first-graders understand a concept that most adults haven’t full grasped: what robots are and how they are used.
The Daisies also learn about engineers and what jobs may lie in their futures.
How Robots Move
This badge is where the computer programming begins. The Daisies are taught about computational thinking and algorithms. They also learn a core concept about robots: they work by following instructions.
Design a Robot
To earn this badge, Daisies must build a robot prototype. The goal is to design something that can fix an everyday problem, through a mix of gears, levels, and pulleys.
This is where Brownies — second and third graders — learn about computer programming, and how robots gather data. The Brownies build their own simple machines and then practice coding on a device.
This is a badge for the competitive kids. To earn it, Brownies learn about robot competitions and science fairs, and learn about the art of sharing one’s robot with the world.
To earn this badge, Brownies must learn about biomimicry, about designing robots and other machines after things that occur in nature. They also learn about the connections between nature and robots.
Later the Brownies build their own robot arms. The final task to earn the badge is to build a robot that helps people or animals.
For this badge, Juniors — fourth and fifth graders — learn about artificial intelligence and robotics as a field. It’s part philosophy and part lab. The Juniors discuss what robots can do and then build a robot to solve a major world problem.
To earn this badge, Juniors learn how robots receive instructions. (Apparently, it’s similar to how axons do it in the human brain.) They then do an anatomical study of a robot and create their own simple machines.
Once again, the Girl Scouts get the chance to refine their presentation skills. As with the similar badge for Brownies, this one also includes learning about science fairs and robot competitions. The Juniors also have the chance to take a field trip to see a robot in action, and visit a robot workshop.