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It might make your hair stand on end

Cedar Springs grad Tom Maynard part of science team

Boy Scouts discovered this week that science could be pretty exciting. In fact, it can make your hair stand on end.

Touching a Van de Graaff generator makes your hair stand on end. Photo courtesy of Michigan Technological University.

At Michigan Technological University’s Youth Programs tent—the only university exhibit in the 2010 Boy Scout Jamboree Technology Quest complex at Fort A.P. Hill, VA—Scouts touched the shiny ball of a Van de Graaff generator, a simple electromagnetic device that will literally make your hair stand on end. They also ran through (or over) Oobleck, a strange substance that displays the properties of both a liquid and a solid.

They learned how to use liquid nitrogen to make 60-second ice cream. They rode a hovercraft powered by a leaf blower and tried a Rubens’ Tube, a physics experiment that demonstrates the relationship between sound waves and sound pressure by making flames dance to music.

And Tom Maynard, 23, a 2006 graduate of Cedar Springs, and fourth year student at Michigan Technological University, was part of the team that made it happen.

Maynard enjoyed going to the national Boy Scout jamboree for two reasons: he is a long-time boy scout and he loves the science.

Maynard earned his Eagle Scout status in 2004, and also worked at Camp Gerber for six years. So it is natural he’d want to go. But how does the science fit in?

“I had the opportunity to show experiments to the kids. I thought it was cool in college when I did them, and I thought it would be cool to show them to younger kids,” explained Maynard.

“We explored the science behind it,” he added. “It’s cool to see them learn and understand. It’s all hands on, and you could see them getting interested and motivated.”

“This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for Boy Scouts to discover for themselves the fun and excitement of science and technology,” said the University’s Youth Programs outreach director Steve Patchin.

Patchin and his staff have created a travelling science road show called “Mind Trekkers” that includes the Jamboree activities, and they take it all over—to Green Bay, Wis., and Grand Rapids, Mich, for example—wherever large groups of impressionable young people gather.  Their goal is simple: to get kids hooked on science.

Every one of the 40,000 to 50,000 Boy Scouts attending the 10-day Jamboree had at least one opportunity to participate in Michigan Tech’s Technology Quest activities.  Those who completed at least one activity will receive a custom-designed Boy Scout Jamboree shoulder patch.

Seven Michigan Tech students, four University staff members and the associate dean of the College of Engineering were at the Jamboree, as was Ned Dake, a 90-year-old Michigan Tech graduate who became an Eagle Scout in the 1930s and continues to work with the Boy Scouts to this day.

Maynard is currently studying language/linguistics, and looking at his options for a career after college.

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