Local Boy Scouts camp out and tour ERDC

Published 3:14 pm Monday, April 18, 2022

A Vicksburg Boy Scout troop recently visited the U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center (ERDC) Waterways Experiment Station for a weekend campout and a hands-on look at some of the center’s latest and greatest technology and research.

Approximately 70 members of the Andrew Jackson Council of Boy Scouts, ages 11 to 18, spent two nights in tents, camping on the ERDC-Vicksburg property. By day, the group visited laboratories and met researchers who shared insight to their innovative science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM) careers.

“The Scouts enjoyed learning about what careers are possible for them in the future,” said Dr. Chuck Weiss, a senior research geologist in the Geotechnical and Structures Laboratory (GSL) who coordinated the weekend event. “Each of the ERDC researchers showed these Scouts the joy they gain by doing scientific research for ERDC. Not only was the campout instructive but the kids loved learning that science can be fun.”

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When visiting the Information Technology Laboratory (ITL), the Scouts got a close-up look at cybersecurity and augmented/virtual reality visualization. Additionally, they were introduced to DamBot, a robot designed by ITL to keep humans out of harm’s way during dam assessments.

“It’s cool learning about the different technologies they use, because I’ve never heard of most of them,” said Jacob Porter, a Boy Scout from Troop 102. “It was neat how they use virtual reality to determine how cost-efficient [construction projects] can be.”

Kenneth Niles, a computer scientist in ITL, was one of the volunteer researchers who spent his Saturday sharing his work with the visitors.

“This can help give them an idea of the opportunities that are available to them in the STEM fields,” Niles said, adding that the scouts were very engaged and excitedly asked questions.

Other ITL volunteers included Timothy Dunaway, Candice Mitchell and Dylan Taylor.

At the Coastal and Hydraulics Laboratory (CHL), Scouts were given the chance to virtually drive a ship through a narrow channel utilizing the laboratory’s Ship/Tow Simulator, a full-scale simulator that improves commercial navigation using real-time conditions, as well as realistic sights, sounds and conditions for maneuvering ships and tows through waterways. The CHL portion of the visit was coordinated by Dr. T. Chris Massey, Dr. Keith Martin and Mary Claire Allison.

The Scouts also visited GSL for a demonstration of additive manufacturing and 3D printing capabilities, and researchers from the Environmental Laboratory (EL) showcased technology known as Decontamination Effluent Treatment System or DETS. ERDC volunteers from GSL included Cody Goss, Kyle Dunsford, Hayden Hanna, Ashley Hanna and Shelby Goss. Scott Waisner volunteered to present DETS from EL.

“I do enjoy doing this for kids,” Niles said. “I want them to better challenge themselves and realize their potential; I wish I would have gotten an opportunity like this. I took what I got and did well with it, but getting a head start would have made a big difference.”