April 1, 2001
"Read Your Bill, Ma'am?"
Boy Scouts in Wisconsin will save you from sticker shock.
The Boy Scouts are an American tradition, teaching boys of all ages the merits of truth, honor, physical fitness, and valor. By giving themselves to community service, young men have learned not only what it means to be a valuable member of society, but also a lot about themselves. Yet helping older women cross the street takes you only so far. Perhaps the Scouts can now find a new niche-reading electric meters and bills for those too scared to take a peak.
Consider, for instance, the clinic run by Wisconsin Public Service Corp. (WPSC) in Green Bay. For the last 48 years, Boy Scouts from the Bay Lakes Council, in Green Bay, Wisc., have partnered with the Wisconsin Public Services Corp., which has helped teach Scouts how to meet all the requirements for the Electricity Merit Badge. On March 10, 44 Boy Scouts from the Bay Lakes Council gathered for the annual electricity merit badge clinic.
In order for a young man to earn the Boy Scout Electricity Merit Badge, there are 11 requirements that must be completed. They are:
- Make a simple electromagnet and show the attraction and repulsion of magnets.
- Explain the difference between the two types of electricity: "direct" and "alternating" current. Give examples of everyday uses of each.
- Show in a simple drawing how to wire a battery and an electric bell.
- Explain why a fuse (or circuit breaker) blows. Tell how to find a blown fuse (or circuit breaker) in your home. Explain how to safely change it.
- Explain what overloading a circuit means. Tell what you can do to make sure your home circuits aren't overloaded.
- Connect a cord to a plug.
- Show how to save a person touching a live wire. Show first aid if he is unconscious.
- Make a floor plan of a room in your home. Show the lights, switches and outlets. Show which fuse protects each.
- Read an electric meter. Figure an electric bill from meter readings.
- Explain ten electric terms, such as volt, amperes and watt.
- Make a circuit with a light, battery and single-pole/ double-throw switch.
Boy Scouts don't learn how to form an independent system operator or power exchange, but they do learn the golden rule that contributes to much of today's electric power crisis out West. "Generally," reads the merit badge handbook, "the thicker the copper in the wire, the more electricity it can carry. If you try to draw a lot of power out of a small wire, the wire will heat up."
According to Karmen Lemke, community relations leader with the WPSC, upon registering for the electricity merit badge program, each Scout is given a packet with information on the program, as well as some homework. Of the 11 requirements, five are sent home with the Scout to be completed at home, with the help of his parents. Then, on the day of the clinic, the Scout works with line electricians, engineers, and other volunteers from the WPSC to complete the remaining six tasks.
Lemke says that this year, "all 44 boys earned their electricity merit badge," thanks to the help of the 15 volunteers and 17 leaders on hand. She says that in the past, parents have told her how difficult it is for the Scout to earn this badge on his own, and the fact the clinic is held makes it much easier. "The fact that the volunteers show up, share in their expertise, and teach these boys the basics about electricity really makes a difference."
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