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Hawkwin

Programming Merit Badge

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My son recently went to Workshop that included Programming. The Prereqs were:

1. Cyberchip (check)

5a. With your counselor’s approval, choose a sample program. Modify the code or add a function or subroutine to it. Debug and demonstrate the modified program to your counselor...

The Programming merit badge website, http://www.boyslife.org/programming, has a number of sample programs that you could use for requirement 5a. However, you have the option of finding a program on your own. It’s a good idea to seek your merit badge counselor’s guidance.

So my son went to the above link, found a "sample program" and added a function exactly as the directions stated. He also debugged and demonstrated the modified program. We couldn't get the counselor's approval in advance obviously but thelanguage of the referenced link is right there on the worksheet.

5b and 5c are similar.

 

The counselor refused to sign off because my son did not create an original program. Nowhere does it state it must be original (it clearly states chose a sample program).

I did not learn of this until the event was over and I wanted to be sure we were correct in our interpretation.

 

What recourse do we have now? Are we correct or is the MBC correct? The MBC originally signed the card but then scribbled out their signature.

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1 hour ago, Hawkwin said:

My son recently went to Workshop that included Programming. The Prereqs were:

1. Cyberchip (check)

5a. With your counselor’s approval, choose a sample program. Modify the code or add a function or subroutine to it. Debug and demonstrate the modified program to your counselor...

The Programming merit badge website, http://www.boyslife.org/programming, has a number of sample programs that you could use for requirement 5a. However, you have the option of finding a program on your own. It’s a good idea to seek your merit badge counselor’s guidance.

So my son went to the above link, found a "sample program" and added a function exactly as the directions stated. He also debugged and demonstrated the modified program. We couldn't get the counselor's approval in advance obviously but thelanguage of the referenced link is right there on the worksheet.

5b and 5c are similar.

 

The counselor refused to sign off because my son did not create an original program. Nowhere does it state it must be original (it clearly states chose a sample program).

I did not learn of this until the event was over and I wanted to be sure we were correct in our interpretation.

 

What recourse do we have now? Are we correct or is the MBC correct? The MBC originally signed the card but then scribbled out their signature.

I would just find a new one and explain your situation to them. If you did what the requirement said, a MBC can not add or remove requirements.

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So how could a scout get approval from his counselor before the workshop?

(I hope everyone sees where I'm going with this.)

Anyway @ItsBrian's suggestion is as good as any.

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1 minute ago, qwazse said:

So how could a scout get approval from his counselor before the workshop?

Don't disagree - but "don't hate tha playa, hate tha game" is my motto. :)

In this case, the req states, "It’s a good idea to seek your merit badge counselor’s guidance." Well, if the MBC wanted to give different guidance for the prereqs than what is printed, they certainly had ample opportunity to tell all applicants that they had to use a different source than what the worksheet states. My son would have complied. They do the same thing for summer camp when it requires an extra fee for supplies or when they want to impose an age restriction or recommendation for the class.

 

We do have one Programming MBC the Troop so I will encourage my son to reach out to him. Thanks  @ItsBrian

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@Hawkwin, I used to be a MB counselor for Programming MB and what you said is not quite what's in the MB book, or at least not how I interpreted it. Here is req 5:

Projects. Do the following:

a. With your counselor’s approval, choose a sample program. Modify the code or add a function or subroutine to it. Debug and demonstrate the modified program to your counselor.
b. With your counselor’s approval, choose a second programming language and development environment, different from those used for requirement 5a and in a different industry from 5a. Then write, debug, and demonstrate a functioning program to your counselor, using that language and environment.
c. With your counselor’s approval, choose a third programming language and development environment, different from those used for requirements 5a and 5b and in a different industry from 5a or 5b. Then write, debug, and demonstrate a functioning program to your counselor, using that language and environment.
d. Explain how the programs you wrote for requirements 5a, 5b, and 5c process inputs, how they make decisions based on those inputs, and how they provide outputs based on the decision making.

Requirement a) says take an existing program and modify it. Requirements b) and c) are to write a program (not just modify one) in different languages from what was used in a).

What I have found is this entire requirement is really hard for scouts with no programming experience and trivially easy for scouts that do have experience. The rest of the requirements are just boring. Anyway, it is hard. I'd suggest pick a really simple task like read in a number and write out the next, or the square of the next. There's simple input dealing with a simple data type, a simple operation, and a simple output. From there go ahead and write the code for each of the two other languages. It is a good exercise.

Whatever your son does, don't copy and paste from programs on the web. I had plenty of scouts do that and I know more about programming then they can even imagine. There are certain styles of writing code that a scout won't know about and when I saw that in their programs I'd do a search on their program and would find the exact same code online. That wasn't a fun discussion with the boy, and then his parent, and SM. Needless to say I stopped doing that MB.

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1 hour ago, Hawkwin said:

Don't disagree - but "don't hate tha playa, hate tha game" is my motto. :)

In this case, the req states, "It’s a good idea to seek your merit badge counselor’s guidance." Well, if the MBC wanted to give different guidance for the prereqs than what is printed, they certainly had ample opportunity to tell all applicants that they had to use a different source than what the worksheet states. My son would have complied. They do the same thing for summer camp when it requires an extra fee for supplies or when they want to impose an age restriction or recommendation for the class.

 

We do have one Programming MBC the Troop so I will encourage my son to reach out to him. Thanks  @ItsBrian

So, you now know that to not seek a your counselors guidance is a bad idea.:mad:

I'm sorry that the workshop that you scout attended set him up to violate the spirit of adult association clearly intended by this requirement. I'm not hating the player, just pointing out that putting it on red five at the roulette table is rarely profitable.:p

Hopefully your troops counselor is like @MattR and will give him a simple project to work on ... Unlike me who would have him pick an excersize from the back of the FORTRAN Coloring Book!

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11 hours ago, qwazse said:

So, you now know that to not seek a your counselors guidance is a bad idea.:mad:

It wasn't possible to seek their guidance in advance. You understand that right? It isn't as if we are told the name of the MBC prior to registration or attendance. Additionally, if the MBC wanted something different than what was written on the worksheet, then publishing that as part of the prereqs would have made sense, don't you think? Provide said guidance in advance. Again, the worksheet specifically referenced a resource to use, and that is what he used.

As a MBC, why even volunteer to host a MB class if you know that you have likely set up your scouts for failure due to your interpretation of the requirements? It can't be any fun for the MBC to spend their weekend on a class where no one gets full credit. If this is not a good MB for hosting at a workshop, then dropping it makes sense.

As I stated in another thread, my son also was working on his prereqs for Wilderness Survival for the same workshop. The prereqs for that class were to build a natural shelter and sleep in it (done) and to build three fires without matches (only two done). He left with incomplete credit and he was OK with that fact as he could not get his third fire to work (magnifying glass). He will try again soon so he can get final credit.

My son said all other scouts also did the same (except for one, maybe) and also didn't receive credit so this MB probably needs clarity brought to what is expected if "sample program" is to be considered the same thing as "write...a functioning program." Sample means already in existence. Write suggests create new.

https://boyslife.org/merit-badges/programming-merit-badge/

GET STARTED PROGRAMMING

Get help with Requirement 5! Select a programming language for sample programs, resources, tips, videos and more. Use the dropdown menu to filter languages by industry.

-----------------

 

 

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This puts a fine point on why I despise mb universities. The DOs should almost never be pre-requisites; the DOs should happen after the mb counselor has provided his/her expertise to the scout. Then the scout DOES, demonstrating to the mb counselor (or discussing, whatever the req states). If done beforehand the scout doesn't benefit from the adult's expertise and the mb is reduced to a cub scout "do your best" award. IMHO

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, Hawkwin said:

It wasn't possible to seek their guidance in advance. You understand that right? It isn't as if we are told the name of the MBC prior to registration or attendance. ...

I really hate how this happens to new parents and scouts. You think you're being sent to something that -- by squinting very carefully -- will allow a scout to bypass the tedium of very first phrase of a requirement. By sins of omission and commissions, workshops practice this deceit on the inexperienced. I assure you that it enrages our SMs.

3 hours ago, Hawkwin said:

... As a MBC, why even volunteer to host a MB class if you know that you have likely set up your scouts for failure due to your interpretation of the requirements? It can't be any fun for the MBC to spend their weekend on a class where no one gets full credit. If this is not a good MB for hosting at a workshop, then dropping it makes sense. ...

Because, it's fun getting boys started on the road to success.

You need a paradigm shift. And, like most people who need one, you don't believe you need it.

When I was a scout, the working assumption was you would attend a merit badge pow-wow to meet a counselor and learn how to perform some of the requirements -- not to complete all of the requirements that day! Having met the counselor once made it much easier to call him/her later to wrap up the badge in ensuing weeks. Your working assumption going into any MB workshop was that at best you will earn a partial. Partials were supposed to be a good thing. They cleared the stack of things a boy could do easily, giving him a plan for knock out the one or two things that couldn't possibly be done by first meeting.

An honest workshop would make this clear. In fact most should be two weekends: one to introduce the badge and help the boy get get the "counselor's approval," and one to come back and demonstrate what he did with that advice. (Actually, with the fire-starting thing ... it can be a long wait for a clear day in western PA.)

So, the Boy's Life link ... is it an "honest workshop"? It provides resources, but it also quotes the requirements verbatim ... "with your counselor’s approval." It could do better by opening "Share this site with you counselor and with his approval select  ..."

Edited by qwazse
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2 hours ago, qwazse said:

And, like most people who need one, you don't believe you need it.

I disagree. Please don't assign beliefs to me. :) We will play by whatever hand we are dealt, just give us clear rules at the start of the game. We have no desire to cut corners, especially when they are well defined. If a workshop stated, "You will need to complete XXX after this class and meet with a MBC for final credit," then that would be well within reason and we would comply eagerly (which is what we will have to do anyway).

My quest for clarity is not a quest to cut corners. We could have easily cut corners for the Wilderness Survival MB and my son would have walked out with a signed card but we didn't. I am a MBC for Wilderness Survival but I wanted him to meet with someone other than myself if possible (as is the goal of the program) but I will be the one signing off when he finally builds his last fire, not before.

2 hours ago, qwazse said:

An honest workshop would make this clear.

Agreed.

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And the irony of the day: One of the hardest tasks in programming is defining the requirements.

I'm not a fan of worksheets. It's kind of like the eagle project book. It's training wheels for organizing ones thoughts. let the scouts start struggling with this so they learn. I realize it's hard for teenagers to do this, but it's a skill that is very important.

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5 minutes ago, Hawkwin said:

I disagree. Please don't assign beliefs to me. :) We will play by whatever hand we are dealt, just give us clear rules at the start of the game. We have no desire to cut corners, especially when they are well defined. If a workshop stated, "You will need to complete XXX after this class and meet with a MBC for final credit," then that would be well within reason and we would comply eagerly (which is what we will have to do anyway). ...

This is the problem: we are given clear rules. They are the first pages of the MB pamphlet. You yourself cited them in your opening post.

Then, you asked "Why even volunteer to host a MB class if you know that you have likely set up your scouts for failure due to your interpretation of the requirements? " (Emphasis mine.) I infer that somewhere along the line:

  • Someone lead you all to believe "with" means "without" in some cases, and somehow your scout thought his situation was one of those cases. That's not interpretation. That's illiteracy at best. Arrogance at worst. Most likely, somewhere in the middle.
  • Somewhere you equate earning a partial blue-card with failure. Leading a workshop is a success even if a kid goes away with as little as an MBC's contact info. Opportunity: about as big a gift as can ever be given.

So, my apologies if you are more willing to adjust your thinking on this than your phrasing lets on. With some folks, it takes a long while for the above to sink in. But, it does need to sink in.

It really stinks to see 11-12 year-olds hit these adult-generated roadblocks. At least your scout has local contacts so he can quickly wrap up his partials. But, we need to lay blame where it belongs: BSA was clear. The MBC followed the requirements as written. The volunteers and pro's who organized the course weren't. This creates choppy waters indeed. A scout cannot control what he is told. But, he can control what he reads and set his standards accordingly.

On the bright side, learning attention to details like this will pay off for him when he goes to do his Eagle project. Who knows what hideous workbook will await him by then!

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