By Darryl Alder
Nov 17, 2014

STEM and Scouting

Stem Activity 3

Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) are considered by most people to be the basis of an advanced civilization. In many environments—including political, governmental, and academic—the strength of the STEM workforce is regarded as an indicator of a nation’s ability to maintain itself in an ever changing future.

Involving our youth members in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics, BSA has created new program plans that emphasize STEM within the framework of current advancement programs.

The BSA/STEM initiative gives Scouts an opportunity to explore related skills and experiences. Then these Scouts are recognized for their achievements. The aim is to expose youth to new opportunities and help them develop STEM skills critical for the world marketplace.

Nova and Supernova Awards

The BSA has started a series of new awards named Nova and Supernova to help Scouts get interested in STEM. The NOVA Award program consists of individual activity elements in various STEM topics structured for Cub Scout, Webelos Scout, Boy Scout, and Venturers.

NOVA Award

NOVA Award Patch

There are four Nova awards for Cub Scouts, Webelos Scouts, Boy Scouts, and Venturers. Each award covers one component of STEM—science, technology, engineering, or mathematics.

    • Cub Scout Nova awards: Science Everywhere, Tech Talk, Swing!, and 1-2-3 Go!
    • Boy Scout Nova awards: Shoot!, Start Your Engines, Whoosh!, and Designed to Crunch
    • Venturer Scout Nova awards: Launch!, Power Up, Hang On!, and Numbers Don’t Lie

    pi (π) pin-on device


    For their first Nova award, Scouts earn the distinctive Nova award patch. After that, a Scout can earn three more Nova awards, each one recognized with a separate pi (π) pin-on device that attaches to the patch. The patch and the three devices represent each of the four STEM topics—science, technology, engineering, and mathematics.

The SUPERNOVA Award program is similar to the BSA Hornaday Award Program. The basic requirements include earning certain Academic Pins for Cub Scouts, Activity Badges for Webelos and Merit Badges for Boy Scouts, plus Scouts must complete additional, more rigorous STEM related requirements. The Venturing requirements are based on more independent achievement and teaching activities. SUPERNOVA is designed to encourage and recognize more in-depth achievement in STEM. The SUPERNOVA awards are medals on neck ribbons.

Counselors & Mentors

Stem roboticsA Counselor is required to help a Scout complete the requirements for a Nova award. Any registered Scouter who has completed Youth Protection Training can be a counselor for the NOVA awards with unit approval—there is no paperwork for this process.

A Mentor is required for the Supernova award (on all program levels). Mentors must be registered Scouters who have completed Youth Protection Training and must be approved by the STEM/Nova Committee. A special Supernova Mentor application form is available for this process. Completed applications should be turned into any Council Service Center for processing.

Mentors should be experienced in a STEM related field (i.e. Scientists, Engineer, Technologists, Science Teachers, Math Teachers, etc.). Only if a Mentor is willing to work with two or more Scouts on the SUPERNOVA at the same time will the exception of a parent with a STEM background be allowed. Scouters with a STEM background may work with Scouts in their unit and encouraged as well to work outside of their own unit.

Guidebooks & Awards

Instructions on how to implement the awards program and all of the requirements for the award are provided in guidebooks which may either be purchased in the Scout Shop or ordered online via

Cub Scout STEMForms are available for use to track progress toward completion of the awards. See the appropriate STEM/Nova Program Resources webpage: Cub Scout, Webelos Scout, Boy Scout,and Venturer.

Once any of the awards are earned by Scouts, completion of the award is recorded in Internet Advancement. For those Scouts who have a completed a Supernova medal, the Supernova Award Application can be downloaded and turned in with the Internet Advancement printout.

All nova awards (patches & pins) and Supernova medals & certificates are available for purchase through the Scout Shop, after completion of the appropriate paperwork.

STEM Resources

Author: Darryl Alder | Strategic Initiatives Director, Utah National Parks Council, BSA. B2Y by FOS FinalSome material in this article comes from BSA STEM Website and the Sam Houston Area Council. We invite you to get social with this article:




Print Friendly, PDF & Email

4 thoughts on “STEM and Scouting

  1. Darryl AlderDarryl Alder Post author

    BSA has been at this about two years, while we are just getting started. This summer we will offer STEM camps and STEM tracks at our Merit Badge Camps.
    BTW thanks for your comment

  2. Avatarpei99

    My 13 Cub Scouts just finished the Tech Talk section of the NOVA award. We had a blast doing it. I enjoyed learning right along with the boys!


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.