Examine the requirements of the STEM Supernova awards program

SCIENCE, TECHNOLOGY, ENGINEERING, AND MATH (STEM) are all the rage—both in school and in Scouting. The BSA’s Supernova awards honor Scouts for exceptional STEM achievement. (Nova awards, meanwhile, reward introductory exploration of STEM disciplines.) Here’s what you need to know to help your Scouts get interested in STEM and the awards program. STEM Supernova Awards

HOW MANY SUPERNOVA AWARDS ARE THERE? Seven. There’s one award for Cub Scouts, one award for Webelos Scouts, two awards for Boy Scouts, and three awards for Venturers. Each is named for a STEM celebrity.

CAN TIGER CUBS EARN THE CUB SCOUT AWARD? No.

CAN ADULT LEADERS EARN THE AWARDS? No.

WHO CAN COUNSEL THE AWARDS? Any council-approved mentor who is a registered Scouter can counsel. Parents—who have expertise in a STEM subject and undergo the council-approval process—may counsel their own children only in a group setting.

DESCRIBE THE CUB SCOUT AND WEBELOS SCOUT REQUIREMENTS. In brief, a Scout must earn certain academic pins (Cub Scouts) or activity badges (Webelos Scouts), learn about STEM celebrities, complete STEM activities, and explore STEM careers. Cub Scouts earn the Dr. Luis W. Alvarez Supernova Award; Webelos Scouts earn the Dr. Charles H. Townes Supernova Award.

DO CUB SCOUTS AND WEBELOS SCOUTS HAVE TO EARN NOVA AWARDS FIRST? No, but they are encouraged to earn at least one of them before pursuing a Supernova award.

DESCRIBE THE BOY SCOUT REQUIREMENTS. Among other things, each requires earning Nova awards and merit badges, completing STEM activities, participating in a science fair or another STEM-related competition, and presenting STEM material to a Cub Scout den or pack. The first-level Dr. Bernard Harris bronze award also includes career exploration, while the second-level Thomas Edison silver award includes doing research on a STEM breakthrough or innovation. The Dr. Bernard Harris award is a prerequisite to the Thomas Edison award.

DESCRIBE THE VENTURING REQUIREMENTS. Requirements for the first-level Dr. Sally Ride bronze award and second-level Wright Brothers silver award include earning Nova awards, completing STEM explorations and Supernova activity topics, participating in a science fair or other STEM-related competition, and presenting STEM material to a Cub Scout den or pack. Requirements for the third-level Dr. Albert Einstein gold award include completing Supernova activity topics, proposing a new Nova award, and conducting an extensive STEM-related research project.

HOW DO VENTURING SUPERNOVA ACTIVITY TOPICS AND STEM EXPLORATIONS DIFFER? Supernova activities are two-part, hands-on activities such as experiments or research projects. STEM explorations relate to learning about specific STEM fields.

DO THE VENTURING AWARDS HAVE TO BE EARNED IN ORDER? Yes. To earn the Wright Brothers award, a Venturer must have already earned the Dr. Sally Ride award as a Venturer or the Dr. Bernard Harris award as a Boy Scout. To earn the Dr. Albert Einstein award, a Venturer must have already earned the Wright Brothers award as a Venturer or the Thomas Edison award as a Boy Scout.

HOW DO VENTURERS EARN A SUPERNOVA AWARD WHEN THEY CANNOT EARN MERIT BADGES? Venturers select from the STEM exploration topics and can utilize merit badge pamphlets—in subjects such as aviation, robotics, weather, and more—as resource guides. Or Venturers may forego the use of merit badge pamphlets and, instead, turn to a STEM expert in the desired field of study.

WHO APPROVES THE AWARDS? The district Nova or advancement committee approves the Cub Scout and Webelos Scout awards. The district or council NOV or advancement committee approves the Boy Scout and bronze and silver Venturing awards. And the national NOVA committee approves the gold Venturing awards. 

WHAT RECOGNITION ITEMS DO RECIPIENTS RECEIVE? Dr. Luis W. Alvarez Supernova Award, No. 613006; Dr. Charles H. Townes Supernova Award, No. 613007; Dr. Bernard Harris Supernova Award, No. 613000; Thomas Edison Supernova Award, No. 615385; Dr. Sally Ride Supernova Award, No. 613615; Wright Brothers Supernova Award, No. 615384; Dr. Albert Einstein Supernova Award, No. 615386; Supernova Award Certificate (covers all seven awards), No. 615439.

Visit the official awards page for more information and an award application. If you have questions, send an email to program.content@scouting.org.

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