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Issue 512 – December 27, 2016

Good Morning Andy,

The charter- and JTE-year run from January 1st through December 31st but the actual, operational Scouting runs essentially from September through May (with a smattering of events plus summer camp during the summer).
As the Cub Scout Roundtable Commissioner for my district, I need contact information (e.g., email addresses) so I can send out announcements to our Scout leaders and parents. But unit rosters are incomplete until after rechartering, sometimes not appearing in “Commissioner Tools” until January. This means that, by September, when new leaders are in place and new youth enter the program, I don’t have current roster information for sending out notices. Is there a reason for this?

In the same light, as a Unit Commissioner, the online “Commissioner Tools” isn’t up-to-date until January. Plus, I’ve found that, even as a UC, I don’t have access to online “Advancement” and “Service Project” information—the very things I need to keep an eye on! Why is this? (Art Aigner, Greater Niagara Frontier Council, NY)

Of course your problem’s not unique… Many, many councils operate charters on a calendar year basis and so acquiring September-based information isn’t exactly a walk-in-the-park. My best suggestion is to rely on the strong relationship between yourself and your District Executive. For Roundtables, the key people you need to reach are the unit leaders and the committee chairs, which shouldn’t be too difficult to acquire from your DE, because DE’s need to work with exactly the same information! As for the additional information you need, that’s also a question for your DE.
Hi Andy,

As a member of our district’s leadership team, I was in a discussion about how to increase parental involvement as a step toward increasing the pool of candidates for district and council volunteer positions. We didn’t resolve the question that night, but this morning, as I was catching up on my Ask Andy reading, I came across exactly what we were looking for. Is it okay if we borrow from your column, to meet this challenge? (Mitch Erickson, Commissioner, Patriots’ Path Council, NJ)

Councils across the US have been using my columns, or excerpts from them, to augment their learning process at the commissioner, district, and unit levels, through broadcast emails plus fodder for discussions at Roundtables, “What would YOU do?” sections of council and district newsletters, and the list goes on! So feel free to use as much as you’d like from any current or any of the 500+ previous columns available. My only request is attribution.
Dear Andy,

I know you know a thing or two when it comes to just about everything Scouting-related, so here’s something specific: the Robotics merit badge. My 12 year-old Scout son and I are in the process of finding a counselor for Robotics in our area to possibly answer some of our questions and concerns about some of the requirements, and maybe you can help us…

In reading through the requirements, it looks like he pretty much has to be part of a robotics team to satisfy them—especially number 4, where it states that the Scout has to design, build, program, and test a robot. When I read “design,” to me that sounds like you need to do it from scratch and invent one on your own. But in the “Boy’s Life” Robotics blog, robotics kits that will satisfy this requirement are advertised. Since these kits are just that—kits—wouldn’t that defeat the purpose of actually designing something on your own? Further, number 5b says, “Share your robot engineering notebook with your counselor. Talk about how well your robot accomplished the task, the improvements you would make in your next design, and what you learned about the design process.” Again, it seems that a kit wouldn’t satisfy this because the requirement asks the Scout what he’d do to improve the design…but the design’s a kit!

I don’t want my son to be discouraged before he begins this badge, but I don’t want him to do a lot of work that may not count towards the badge. Any help would be appreciated. (If you aren’t able to answer this yourself, is there a BSA POC for this Merit Badge that he can contact? (Joe Sefcik, Connecticut Rivers Council)

Your son, at 12 years old, would be best served by Dad stepping back so that he can ask his Scoutmaster to give him the name and contact information of a Robotics Merit Badge Counselor (this is for the Scout to do, and for his Scoutmaster to provide). Then, armed with this information, your son can reach out to the Counselor and ask all the questions he’d like, in an in-person meeting with the Counselor. You, in the meanwhile, can encourage your son to not begin working on any requirements until he’s met with the Counselor and they, together, develop a game-plan for success.

One of the two key aims of the BSA Merit Badge Program is for youth to collaborate with adults they DON’T know, so be sure to allow this to happen for your son. It’s one of Scouting’s “hidden life-lessons”!

Good points all around, Andy. I try and do as little as possible, if anything (unless safety is at stake), when it comes to that. I guess I didn’t want my son to do all this work and later be told, sorry, kid. But I guess he should ask the counselor first. As an added bonus, since my level of robotics is limited to getting a soda out of the soda machine, my R2D2 action figure from my childhood, or watching Battlebots, I’d have no idea where to steer him, so the counselor would be a far better resource. Heck, I still have a flip phone! Thanks again. (Joe)

Truth be told, my own flip phone has a rotary dial on it, so don’t feel too badly! <wink>

For merit badges, a Scout should always begin with an in-person conversation with the MBC first! MBCs aren’t “examiners” or “test proctors,” or even “evaluators.” They’re guides, mentors, and coaches. They help the Scout define how he’s going to approach the merit badge and its requirements, and then help them stay on plan—or adjust as the Scout’s schedule shifts (which we know it likely will) along the way. Remember: A Scout doesn’t “pass” requirements; he completes requirements. This is why it’s always best to start with that initial conversation. Anything less than that places the Scout in a situation that could lead to frustration, if he steams ahead without a rudder.
Hello Andy,

We’re getting requests from troop alumni who are excited about the troop getting a concession stand at a local fair, to sell hot dogs and such as a fund-raiser for our troop. They want to help because they acknowledge that having been Scouts in this troop changed their lives for the best. I know the scouts can’t solicit, but a troop can receive gifts. If a group like, say, the Lions Club asks, “How can we support you Scouts having a stand, so can a couple of Scouts come to one of our meetings and talk with us about this opportunity?” can the Scouts follow up on their request? It seems to me that the Scouts going to the meeting and talking with adults about this is also a great development experience for them. Can/should they do this? (Troy Shively)

By all means, GO! What a fabulous offer! The Scouts can tell the Lions all about their troop and their exciting times, and then focus on the event and what they’ll be doing. If you or another adult can go along (in uniform, too!), and have an item-and-cost budget sheet in your back pocket, you’ll “Be Prepared” when the Lions ask, “What do you need?” Go for it!

Happy Scouting and Happy New Year!


Have a question? Facing a dilemma? Wondering where to find a BSA policy or guideline? Write to Please include your name and council. (If you’d prefer to be anonymous, if published, let me know and that’s what we’ll do.)

[No. 512 – 12/27/2016 – Copyright © Andy McCommish 2016]


About AskAndy

Andy is a Board Member of the U.S. Scouting Service Project, Inc.

Andy has just received notification by his council Scout Executive that he is to be recognized as a National Distinguished Eagle Scout. He is currently serving as a Unit Commissioner and his council's International Representative. He has previously served in a number of other Scouting roles including Assistant Council Commissioner, Cubmaster, Scoutmaster, Den Leader, and--as a Scout--Patrol Leader, Senior Patrol Leader, and Junior Assistant Scoutmaster. His awards include: Kashafa Iraqi Scouting Service Award, Distinguished Commissioner, Doctor of Commissioner Science, International Scouter Award, District Award of Merit (2), Scoutmaster Award of Merit, Scouter's Key (3), Daniel Carter Beard Masonic Scouter Award, Cliff Dochterman Rotarian Scouter Award, James E. West Fellow (2), Wood Badge & Sea Badge, and Eagle Scout & Explorer Silver Award.

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