Badge Merit (4)

By: Joshua Glenn
August 8, 2010

In 1963, the Boy Scouts of America approved this as the 104th in their series of Merit Badges. The official requirements to receive the badge are as follows:

  1. Tell the meaning of the following: alpha particle, atom, background radiation, beta particle, curie, fallout, half-life, ionization, isotope, neutron, neutron activation, nuclear energy, nuclear reactor, particle accelerator, radiation, radioactivity, roentgen, and X ray.
  2. Make three-dimensional models of the atoms of the three isotopes of hydrogen. Show neutrons, protons, and electrons. Use these models to explain the difference between atomic weight and number.
  3. Make a drawing showing how nuclear fission happens. Label all details. Draw a second picture showing how a chain reaction could be started. Also show how it could be stopped. Show what is meant by a “critical mass.”
  4. Tell who five of the following people were. Explain what each of the five discovered in the field of atomic energy: Henri Becquerel, Niels Bohr, Marie Curie, Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi, Otto Hahn, Ernest Lawrence, Lise Meitner, William Roentgen, and Sir Ernest Rutherford. Explain how any one person’s discovery was related to one other person’s work.
  5. Draw and color the radiation hazard symbol. Explain where it should and should not be used. Tell why and how people must use radiation or radioactive materials carefully.
  6. Do any THREE of the following:
  • Build an electroscope. Show how it works. Put a radiation source inside it. Explain any difference seen.
  • Make a simple Geiger counter. Tell the parts. Tell which types of radiation the counter can spot. Tell how many counts per minute of what radiation you have found in your home.
  • Build a model of a reactor. Show the fuel, the control rods, the shielding, the moderator, and any cooling material. Explain how a reactor could be used to change nuclear into electrical energy or make things radioactive.
  • Use a Geiger counter and a radiation source. Show how the counts per minute change as the source gets closer. Put three different kinds of material between the source and the detector. Explain any differences in the counts per minute. Tell which is the best to shield people from radiation and why.
  • Use fast-speed film and a radiation source. Show the principles of autoradiography and radiography. Explain what happened to the films. Tell how someone could use this in medicine, research, or industry.
  • Using a Geiger counter (that you have built or borrowed), find a radiation source that has been hidden under a covering. Find it in a least three other places under the cover. Explain how someone could use this in medicine, research, agriculture, or industry.
  • Visit a place where X ray is used. Draw a floor plan of the room in which it is used. Show where the unit, the person who runs it, and the patient would be when it is used. Describe the radiation dangers from X ray.
  • Make a cloud chamber. Show how it can be used to see the tracks caused by radiation. Explain what is happening.
  • Visit a place where radioisotopes are being used. Explain by drawing how and why it is used.
  • Get samples of irradiated seeds. Plant them. Plant a group of nonirradiated seeds of the same kind. Grow both groups. List any differences. Discuss what irradiation does to seeds.


Fourth in a series of six exploring the role of badges in hilobrow culture.



What do you think?

  1. Extra credit (Scoutmaster Level only):
    Before class, tape radioactive puck under targeted student’s desk.
    During class, carry around Geiger counter (that you have built or borrowed) to “see if anyone is radioactive.”
    Act amazed as class backs away from radioactive student.
    Reveal puck trick.
    Everyone has a good laugh.
    [Check task completed, 1979, which explains why fallout = none.]

  2. “Visit a place where X ray is used. Draw a floor plan of the room in which it is used. Show where the unit, the person who runs it, and the patient would be when it is used. Describe the radiation dangers from X ray.”

    I can’t help thinking this entire merit badge is a Boy Scout ploy to get kids to visit the dentist…

  3. If they gave this merit badge out to Brownies, I would have totally gotten it.

    Admittedly, I didn’t get to do the really cool stuff (like irradiating baking powder in a small nuclear reactor) until I was a physics major at university.

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