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The BSA STEM / Nova Program

What is STEM?

The acronym STEM stands for:

Engineering and

This approach to education is designed to revolutionize the teaching of subject areas such as mathematics and science by incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum by creating a “meta-discipline”.


We live in a time of great opportunity, when the spirit of innovation can help us overcome challenges and ensure a prosperous and secure future. To seize these opportunities and we must position ourselves at the cutting edge of scientific discovery and technological innovation.

Yet our country is falling behind in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). This is why many professionals and educators in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics believe the United States should do more now than ever to encourage students to enter STEM-related fields. These experts say our young people need strong STEM skills to compete in the world market. We must work together to cultivate the next generation of critical thinkers and innovators.

  • In 2009, just 34 percent of U.S. 8th graders were rated proficient or higher in a national math assessment.
  • In an international exam given, U.S. high school students ranked 21st out of 30 industrialized nations in science and 25th in math.
  • Only 43 percent of U.S. high school graduates in 2010 were ready for college work in math and 29 percent were ready in science.

STEM is the future

Fostering a strong STEM education is our best opportunity to boost the spirit of innovation. It’s what we need to help ensure this country continues on a prosperous and secure journey. STEM literacy is also critical because it has a profound and growing impact on our day-to-day lives. Nature, space exploration, and any STEM-related interest reveals to us the beauty and power of the world we inhabit.

STEM education is an economic imperative. Experts say that technological innovation accounted for almost half of U.S. economic growth over the past 50 years, and almost all of the 30 fastest-growing occupations in the next decade will require at least some background in STEM.

The BSA Response

  • THE BSA has partnered with ExxonMobil to increase STEM awareness in youth and offer them the opportunities to “Be Prepared for Life.”
  • Also, this effort will increase the awareness in the community and among parents that the Boy Scouts of America is, and always has been, concerned about these issues – and is, and always has been, making a difference in lives.

The BSA’s Newest Program – Or is it?

  • Most think of Scouting as a camping movement. While that is okay, we all know that there is much more to Scouting than that. We also know that the attention paid to Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math that is part of American culture today is not new to Scouting.
  • Our founders, most notably Ernest Thompson Seton, understood over 100 years ago that an understanding how of scientific concepts impacted their lives, the world, and the universe was important to the development of young men. They wove the concepts throughout the program.
  • Among the original 57 merit badges introduced in 1911 there were many that today we would include as STEM merit badges. These included Architecture, Astronomy, Aviation, Chemistry, Electricity, Machinery, and Surveying.
    • From Aeronautics to Zoology, hundreds of merit badges over the last century have been STEM-related.
  • But it has not just been merit badges. Do you remember learning about the food chain, or how to measure the height of a tree using a stick, or how to find north by looking at the stars, or about the Earth’s magnetic field, or participating in Project SOAR? Or the hundreds of other things you learned as a Scout that brought Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math into your world in a practical way?
    • “Incorporating technology and engineering into regular curriculum by creating a ‘meta-discipline.’”
  • Scouting has created interest in STEM careers and has prepared Scouts to go on to greater things in life. Thousands have gone on to excel in STEM fields.
    • Have your ever heard of Paul Siple? He was an Eagle Scout who accompanied Admiral Byrd to Antarctica as part of a BSA program in 1928. He went on to become a expert on Antarctica, designed cold weather gear for soldiers in Korea, and is credited with the development of the wind chill scale. Five geographic features in Antarctica are named for him.
    • NASA and scouting have a long history. More than two-thirds of all current and former astronauts have been involved in scouting. Of the 312 pilots and scientists selected as astronauts since 1959, at least 207 have been identified as having been scouts or active in scouting. (click to read more)

About the Nova Program

  • Incorporates learning with cool activities and exposure to science, technology, engineering and mathematics
  • Cub Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers
  • Activities and awards to stimulate interest in STEM-related fields and shows how science, technology, engineering and mathematics apply to everyday living
  • Counselors and mentors help the youth

What Are Nova Awards?

novabooks novaandpis






Cub ScoutsScience EverywhereTech TalkSwing!1-2-3 Go!
Boy ScoutsShoot!Start Your EnginesWhoosh!Designed to Crunch
Venture ScoutsLaunch!Power UpHang On!Numbers Don't Lie


What is a Counselor / Mentor?

  • Nova Counselors

    • Counselors work with scouts on Nova awards
    • Adults with little to some knowledge in STEM topics
      • Need not be professionals or experts
      • Willing to research and study to be ready to guide participants
    • Guide youth participants in research and experiences
    • Maintain quality and safety in Program
  • Supernova Mentors

    • Mentors work with scouts on Supernova awards
    • Adults with expertise in STEM topics
      • Professional-level engineers, scientists, educators and hobbyists who use STEM skills often
    • Guide youth in significant accomplishments in STEM topics
    • Maintain quality and safety

Counselor / Mentor Requirements

Nova Counselors

Supernova Mentors

Must be age 21 or older (registered under the Nova Awards counselor position code 58. This is a non-unit position and requires no fee.Must be age 21 or older and registered under the Nova Awards mentor position code 52. This is a non-unit position and requires no fee.
Youth Protection TrainedYouth Protection Trained
Training would be helpful.Nova Counselor/Mentor Trained
Can be a parent or scout leaderNOT the parent or Unit Leader of your participant (unless leading more than your own child)
Able to guide participant activitiesAble to guide participant activities over many months.
Knowledgeable in STEM topics (is able to research topics)Expert in STEM topics and guiding students.
Approved by the Council Nova Committee (Supernova Mentor Application)

STEM Training is available online:

Links to Other BSA STEM Sites

Links to STEM related sites for Cub Scouts

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