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Boy Scouts STEM event

Several members of St. Louis area cub scout troops work to build dinosaurs using household items. The project was part of a day-long science, technology, engineering and math program hosted by the Boy Scouts of Greater St. Louis. Photo by Ashley Jost, ajost@post-dispatch.com.

BELLERIVE ACRES • On one side of the University of Missouri-St. Louis campus, college students celebrated graduation.

On another, a group of scouts occupied the opposite end of the spectrum in what, for many, was their first exposure to higher ed classrooms and laboratories.

Organized by the Greater St. Louis Area Council of Boy Scouts, "STEM University" for five years has invited hundreds of boys from an area spanning southeastern Missouri and southern Illinois to participate in a day of learning about the core "STEM" curriculum - science, technology, engineering and math. 

The event, which this year drew more than 500 Cub and Boy Scouts, is the first of its kind nationally and has become a template for similar programs nationwide.

The Cub and Boy Scouts spent the day absorbing subject matter and participating in a hands-on activity.

This marked the fifth year that UMSL has hosted the Boy Scout STEM University.

Two others are planned in the coming months at Southeast Missouri State University and the University of Illinois at Carbondale.

The experience can earn Scouts merit badges and awards through the Boy Scouts' Nova initiative, which seeks to boost interest in STEM industries.

To achieve that objective, the younger scouts excavated toy dinosaurs after learning about the principles of archaeology.

Others separated rocks by classification in a geology class. 

"This has a national impact," said Tom Kroenung, director of STEM programs for the Greater St. Louis Council "Our country needs more young people in STEM industries, and this just builds on their enthusiasm."