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Rock Doc

Intent of First Class GPS Navigation Requirement?

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Posted (edited)

First Class requirement 4b reads in part:

"Use GPS to find your current location, a destination of your choice, and the route you will take to get there. Follow that route to arrive at your destination."

I'd be interested to hear your opinions on what you believe the underlying intent of this requirement is meant to be. For example, GPS can be used in a variety of environments and settings, including urban/suburban/backcountry/surface water bodies, etc. Since the last sentence requires the scout to physically follow the route chosen, would it be acceptable to follow the route while being driven from point to point with the scout calling out directions? Or is the intent to use GPS in concert with maps to plot a backcountry route avoiding difficult terrain or bushwacking? Or anything in between? It seems that the first option requires little to no skill and could be as simple as parroting an automotive GPS' verbal directions, while the latter could be quite challenging.

Thoughts?

Edited by Rock Doc

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16 minutes ago, Rock Doc said:

Or is the intent to use GPS in concert with maps to plot a backcountry route avoiding difficult terrain or bushwacking? Or anything in between?

4b only specifies using some type of GPS device, making a scout use it in conjunction with a map would be adding to the requirements.

We frequently travel several hours for backpacking, kayaking, camping, etc., and always use GPS to plot those routes.  One caution we give our scouts about being overly dependent on GPS, is that sometimes construction is going on that temporarily changes where an exit on the highway may located.  We also remind them that if the GPS device they are using is a phone, it's usefulness ends when the battery dies, at which time you better be well acquainted with map and compass skills.

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1 minute ago, MikeS72 said:

4b only specifies using some type of GPS device, making a scout use it in conjunction with a map would be adding to the requirements.

We frequently travel several hours for backpacking, kayaking, camping, etc., and always use GPS to plot those routes.  One caution we give our scouts about being overly dependent on GPS, is that sometimes construction is going on that temporarily changes where an exit on the highway may located.  We also remind them that if the GPS device they are using is a phone, it's usefulness ends when the battery dies, at which time you better be well acquainted with map and compass skills.

I agree that we can't add to the rank requirement. However, people frequently end up driving into rivers, lakes, dead end streets, etc., by blindly following GPS directions, so truthing the chosen route using a map is a helpful cross check, even if not required. Also, scouts should understand the limitations of navigation devices that don't include a pre-loaded base map, for example many geocaching devices, that function more like an electronic compass.

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6 minutes ago, Rock Doc said:

I agree that we can't add to the rank requirement. However, people frequently end up driving into rivers, lakes, dead end streets, etc., by blindly following GPS directions, so truthing the chosen route using a map is a helpful cross check, even if not required. Also, scouts should understand the limitations of navigation devices that don't include a pre-loaded base map, for example many geocaching devices, that function more like an electronic compass.

You are giving and example of how personal perspective can add (or takeaway) experience to the intent. The requirement is pretty clear and the MB Counselor should explain the minimum actions for a successful completion of the requirement. However, a good MB Counselor would provide additional information or perspective to enrich the scout's experience. There would be no need for experts of the particular MBs if the only expectation was minimal effort for the requirements.

Barry

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Posted (edited)

Barry,

You are correct, although this is a rank requirement not a MB. The text for 4b just seems a tad vague for a rank requirement. Would you give credit if a scout programmed a route into their parents/guardians car navigation system and were then driven along the route?

Edited by Rock Doc

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1 minute ago, Rock Doc said:

Barry,

You are correct, although this is a rank requirement not a MB. The text for 4b just seems a tad vague for a rank requirement. Would you give credit if a scout programmed a route into their parents/guardians car navigation system and then followed the route?

Ah, thanks for the clarification.

To answer question, it would depend on the knowledge he gained from the experience.

What exactly do you think are the minimum skills that are intended to be learned? What do you think are the additional skills the scout would enjoy experiencing to broaden his knowledge and enjoyment from the requirement. My previous post still stands, guide and advise the scout to broaded the experience beyond the minimal requirement so that the scout not only learns the minimum skills, they also have fun. Scouting should be fun and adventurous. Help the scout have fun and adventure.

Barry

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15 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Ah, thanks for the clarification.

To answer question, it would depend on the knowledge he gained from the experience.

What exactly do you think are the minimum skills that are intended to be learned? What do you think are the additional skills the scout would enjoy experiencing to broaden his knowledge and enjoyment from the requirement. My previous post still stands, guide and advise the scout to broaded the experience beyond the minimal requirement so that the scout not only learns the minimum skills, they also have fun. Scouting should be fun and adventurous. Help the scout have fun and adventure.

Barry

I think that your comment "it would depend on the knowledge he gained from the experience" captures the problem precisely. We should not be making judgment calls to determine completion of rank requirements. It should be black and white.

As to my perspective on the minimum skills that are intended to be learned, I'd lean towards learning how to use a GPS for backcountry travel rather than car-based travel. So, selecting a route between trail side campsites using coordinates rather than street addresses. I completely agree with wanting to promote the spirit of fun and adventure, and would never create abitrary roadblocks or hold scouts to higher standards than required. I just see the example I cited (programming a car navigation system and having a parent/guardian) drive the scout along the route as more befitting a Cub Scout, where it would be shared experience, but would not pose much of a challenge to a 11 or 12-yr-old (who is likely already coding, etc)

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a better choice of wording to the requirement would be helpful.  As first Class scouts aren't going to be typically of driving age, and that the navigation requirements follow a progression from previous ranks, I would say the intent is land-based navigation and plotting course.  if you read the first part, I feel the author of this requirement was trying to distinguish from using a car navigation setup:

4b. Demonstrate how to use a handheld GPS unit, GPS app on a smartphone, or other electronic navigation system. Use GPS to find your current location, a destination of your choice, and the route you will take to get there. Follow that route to arrive at your destination.

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56 minutes ago, Rock Doc said:

I agree that we can't add to the rank requirement. However, people frequently end up driving into rivers, lakes, dead end streets, etc., by blindly following GPS directions, so truthing the chosen route using a map is a helpful cross check, even if not required. Also, scouts should understand the limitations of navigation devices that don't include a pre-loaded base map, for example many geocaching devices, that function more like an electronic compass.

A good point. One of the issues I see with many scouts (and non-scouts) is that they have no idea of their home surroundings (the have no mental map). They have no idea which way is north ("try the north side of the building." "Huh, which way is that?"), they can't navigate on their own from their school (or soccer practice, scout meeting) to their home, even when it's not very far (such as a 20 minute walk). They have no idea of where things are in relation to each other ("can you point toward the general direction of your house from here?"). And unfortunately, the same can often be said of their parents. And most of this is because of overuse of GPS (I have one friend that automatically uses the car GPS to basically go everywhere. His mental map has deteriorated a lot since we were kids. He often has no idea where he is. If the GPS tells him to go in the wrong direction, I don't think he would be able to tell.) - and the fact that these kids are driven everywhere by their parents, so they don't have a chance to learn a mental map (when I was a kid, and in a car, I was looking out the windows watching, subconsciously learning the route. Now kids have their face buried in some electronic device instead).

Being able to navigate from places we commonly go (school, church, meetings, best friends house, etc.) to home, grandma's house, Dad's work, etc. is an important survival skill. All kids should be able to navigate (walk, bike, give directions to a driver) these common routes in an emergency - and without access to electronic devices or even a map. They should KNOW it. It's right up there with knowing Mom and Dad's names, home phone number, address, etc. I wish there was a greater emphases placed on learning these important skills.

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Posted (edited)
7 minutes ago, HashTagScouts said:

a better choice of wording to the requirement would be helpful.  As first Class scouts aren't going to be typically of driving age, and that the navigation requirements follow a progression from previous ranks, I would say the intent is land-based navigation and plotting course.  if you read the first part, I feel the author of this requirement was trying to distinguish from using a car navigation setup:

4b. Demonstrate how to use a handheld GPS unit, GPS app on a smartphone, or other electronic navigation system. Use GPS to find your current location, a destination of your choice, and the route you will take to get there. Follow that route to arrive at your destination.

Agreed! So, how would you react if a scout showed you a video of him being driven along his chosen route (using handheld or built-in system), and asked for credit for requirement 4b?

Edited by Rock Doc

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Well, while I understand outdoor adventure of Boy Scouting is a natural influence for your "learning how to use a GPS for backcountry travel", I don't see that much detail in the wording of the requirement. 

I think back of the compass skills I learned as a youth, I was pretty good. Yet, I learn those skills on compass courses in town. I later got to apply those skills on adventure trips and enhanced my skills.

I can't say you are right or wrong, but I think adults should model honesty in the respecting the rules.

I think what set our troop program apart from many programs around us is that we broaden the experiences of many requirements by adding adventure. If you want the scouts to gain more from any requirement, set up an activity to give them that adventure. Hey, maybe even figure out how to use a drone to add fun. Be creative.

Barry 

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To me, the requirement is intended to teach that GPS navigation is valuable for certain situations, but is not quite superior to compass/map.   Smartphone GPS especially is reliant on satellite and cellular signal triangulation (and in most cases, internet signal to download the map).  If you are in a backcountry area with limited to no cellular signal, it can be pretty widely imprecise.  A dedicated GPS unit is  typically more reliable. 

This requirement itself is just a basic learning experience, so I wouldn't ask a youth to use the GPS and locate a spot 5 miles away and walk the route.  I have used it within a scout camp and within a local park and had the scouts pick a spot that was perhaps a 15 minute walk, which gave them some perspective (much like with a compass/map) that as much as they need to give attention to the GPS, they also have to lift their head and watch where they are going.  I have a pretty high-end GPS unit, with topo maps for most of the Northeast loaded- I used to do geocaching, but haven't in a bit- but most basic GPS units don't have full topo maps included.  So, lesson learned that just because the GPS says to go directly north for 1,500 feet doesn't mean the GPS understands that there is a ravine ahead, or a river, or a building, or a jungle gym, etc.     

I would, in your shoes, not sign that requirement, but offer to the scout we'll take some time on our next campout (or, even offer to meet them and their parent on a Saturday morning at a local park) to do this exercise to get them their sign-off.  Encourage them you are glad they had that experience, as they now understand the basics of how the GPS navigation works, so this will be an easy requirement for them to complete when you get together. 

 

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6 minutes ago, Eagledad said:

Well, while I understand outdoor adventure of Boy Scouting is a natural influence for your "learning how to use a GPS for backcountry travel", I don't see that much detail in the wording of the requirement. 

I think back of the compass skills I learned as a youth, I was pretty good. Yet, I learn those skills on compass courses in town. I later got to apply those skills on adventure trips and enhanced my skills.

I can't say you are right or wrong, but I think adults should model honesty in the respecting the rules.

I think what set our troop program apart from many programs around us is that we broaden the experiences of many requirements by adding adventure. If you want the scouts to gain more from any requirement, set up an activity to give them that adventure. Hey, maybe even figure out how to use a drone to add fun. Be creative.

Barry 

I hear you and agree with your sentiment - not everything has to be geared around high adventure and skills are scaleable. I keep harping on the use of car-based GPS because Second Class scouts are almost always not yet driving and therefore couldn't independently apply the skills. That's why I'd lean towards teaching GPS skills at a local park or even the CO facility if it's reasonably large. A simple course could be set up with way points/coordinates to help scouts learn the device's input interface and understand the level of accuracy of different devices in different settings (tall buildings, tree cover, etc).

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Posted (edited)
17 minutes ago, HashTagScouts said:

To me, the requirement is intended to teach that GPS navigation is valuable for certain situations, but is not quite superior to compass/map.   Smartphone GPS especially is reliant on satellite and cellular signal triangulation (and in most cases, internet signal to download the map).  If you are in a backcountry area with limited to no cellular signal, it can be pretty widely imprecise.  A dedicated GPS unit is  typically more reliable. 

This requirement itself is just a basic learning experience, so I wouldn't ask a youth to use the GPS and locate a spot 5 miles away and walk the route.  I have used it within a scout camp and within a local park and had the scouts pick a spot that was perhaps a 15 minute walk, which gave them some perspective (much like with a compass/map) that as much as they need to give attention to the GPS, they also have to lift their head and watch where they are going.  I have a pretty high-end GPS unit, with topo maps for most of the Northeast loaded- I used to do geocaching, but haven't in a bit- but most basic GPS units don't have full topo maps included.  So, lesson learned that just because the GPS says to go directly north for 1,500 feet doesn't mean the GPS understands that there is a ravine ahead, or a river, or a building, or a jungle gym, etc.     

I would, in your shoes, not sign that requirement, but offer to the scout we'll take some time on our next campout (or, even offer to meet them and their parent on a Saturday morning at a local park) to do this exercise to get them their sign-off.  Encourage them you are glad they had that experience, as they now understand the basics of how the GPS navigation works, so this will be an easy requirement for them to complete when you get together. 

 

Some good stuff here! We've found an Android smartphone app called "Backcountry Navigator" (free) does a nice job of allowing 7.5-minute quad topo downloads over wifi or cellular for use when there's no cell signal at all (smartphone GPS receiver still works without cell signal). Google Earth (free) is also great for selecting coordinates of features to be used in a GPS course. So, with a little prep it's pretty easy to set up a course in the local park, or even around a shopping mall or other large open space.

 

Edited by Rock Doc
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This is a very simple and practical scout skill. If I'm transporting scouts who have hand-helds (and their parents will allow it), I always ask them to look up directions and help me navigate.

I might even suggest they add a coffee shop I'd like to try as a waypoint! :ph34r:

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