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(Enlarge) Baltimore area Boy Scouts gather Saturday at Murphy Field House during the daylong S.T.E.M. Merit Badge Day. The Scouts, who chose one badge to focus on for the day, attended classes at the Defense Information School, Burba Lake and Picerne neighborhood centers that focused on chemistry, composite materials, computers, electricity, electronics, inventing, robotics, engineering, space exploration, energy and surveying. (Photo by Noah Scialom)

From the art of building robots and rockets to chemistry and surveying, more than 400 Boy Scouts from the Baltimore area picked up new science, technology, engineering and math skills at Fort Meade.

On Saturday, the installation played host to the hundreds of Scouts looking to earn challenging merit badges during the Scouts' first S.T.E.M. Merit Badge Day.

Scouts were scattered throughout the post during the daylong event, attending classes focused on chemistry, composite materials, computers, electricity, electronics, inventing, robotics, engineering, space exploration, energy and surveying.

Organizers said the event, which was open to all girls and boys ages 11 to 17, was held at Fort Meade as part of the Scouts' relationship with the installation and to combine resources for the large-scale event.

"The bigger focus is just us, as Americans, we need to focus and bridge the gap on science, technology, engineering and math -- and what better place to do that than at Fort Meade?" said Ian Smith, a STEM district executive with the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts.

The day kicked off with a brief ceremony featuring Garrison Commander Col. Edward C. Rothstein and John C. Inglis, deputy commander of the National Security Agency.

"This is amazing, this is awesome and I'm so proud to be apart of this and you allowing me to share this day with you," Rothstein said to the Scouts. "I really want to show my appreciation to you and thank you for taking the time to do this.

"The key to success in the Army is wellness, and wellness is making good decisions. You are doing just that in being here on a Saturday, expanding your horizons with science, technology, engineering and math opportunities."

Rothstein challenged the Scouts to continue to "think things through and continue to be innovative."

Following the ceremony, the 430 Boy Scouts were sent throughout the post for their daylong classes. Courses were taught at the Defense Information School, Burba Lake and Picerne Military Housing's neighborhood centers.

Scouts picked one badge to focus on for the day. Using instruction and hands-on projects, they learned various STEM skills.

Patrick Shields, a STEM executive with the Baltimore Area Council of the Boy Scouts, said the event provided participants with an interesting and beneficial way of earning merit badges.

"There is a whole series of STEM-related merit badges being taught by professionals, experts or people very knowledgeable about those merit badges," he said.

While classes conducted various projects, Shields said the event was highlighted by the Space Exploration's rocket launches and robot building in the Robotics class.

Nick Brown, 15, and Mason Wright, 17, said they enjoyed the opportunity to earn the challenging STEM merit badges through the surveying class.

Nick, who is from Troop 975 in Severn, said he picked the classes to help him narrow down his interests.

"It will help me find out what I want to do," the Severn resident said.

Highland resident Mason, on the other hand, took the course to learn a few new skills that could help him in his desired career.

"I picked it because I want to do stuff with buildings and be an architect," he said "So it should help me with that."

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