A Cub Scout leader who keeps Scouts engaged with robotics

DaveLarochelleAs a boy, Dan Larochelle spent a few years in Cub Scouting before switching to sports. His next real exposure to Scouting came when he started coaching high school robotics teams. Many of his participants were Eagle Scouts, and he liked the leadership and character he saw in them.

When his older son, John, came home from elementary school with a Cub Scout flier, Dan knew it was time to re-engage. He served as John’s Tiger leader before taking over as Cubmaster the following year. John is now a Boy Scout in Troop 118, while younger son Kyle is a first-year Webelos.

Scouting and robotics have intersected in other ways for Larochelle. A few years ago, he formed a robotics team with John’s Bear den that ended up at the world championship in Anaheim, Calif.

“The robot was good, but the kids were so cute,” he says. “They were very articulate, and they all worked very well together; that really impressed the judges.”

Why robotics? One reason is, it’s tricking them into learning. It’s the shiny thing that teaches them how to do mechanical design, programming, electronics. It’s not about the robot. I just want to make sure they do the best they can and try really hard. That’s a very important learning tool, because you can’t really learn until you try. And as long as they’re trying, I’ll give them a high-five and say we’ll do better next time.

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced as a Cubmaster? It took me a long time to get comfortable in the role. When my son was starting Wolves, that group of families became the new leadership, and we had nobody to follow. Now I’m providing the new Tiger families stuff I didn’t have, and last year I had an assistant Cubmaster who was a Tiger mom. All my scripts, all my documentation is electronic. We’re a lot more organized.

How have you accommodated Scouts who also play sports? At least 50 percent of my boys played soccer last year, and some of the games were on our meeting night. We started meeting as a pack in early September, but we worked on electives. We purposely held dens from moving forward on the new program until the middle of October, which coincided with the end of soccer.

What’s your message to parents whose kids step away for a sports season? I say, “Scouting will be here. We’re a year-round program.” I think that message is very important. You can’t say, “You can only do Scouting,” because you know what the answer’s going to be for that.

What’s your secret to recruiting? It’s the boys. At our join night last fall, I did not have to say a word, because my son John was telling the younger boys how much he loved Scouting and all the fun things he had done over the past five years.

How do you balance fun and advancement? I tell my leaders I don’t really care how fast they move through the program. As long as the boys are having fun, that’s all that really matters. Kids go to school all day long; they don’t need more school at night.

So you don’t worry about getting rank advancements done by blue and gold? No. We’ve turned blue and gold into more of a general pack meeting and a celebration of the boys.

Pack 118 has a lot of involved adults. What’s your secret? I’m very honest with them when I’m recruiting them. I say, “This is a family program. If you think this is a drop-off thing, that’s what you’re going to get out of it.”

And every adult gets a T-shirt. Why? When people come in and see all the volunteers in maroon Pack 118 shirts, they’re like, “Wow, this group really has their act together.” ¿

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