MOUNT HOPE, W.Va. (AP) - After years of telling Boy Scouts to leave their high-tech gadgets at home and enjoy the outdoors, officials are working to make this the first high-tech national Jamboree.
Scouts are encouraged to download a Jamboree app that will encourage them to move and interact with the environment at The Summit, the new location for the 10-day Jamboree that begins Monday. Crossing an unmarked stream on the property? A mini-environmental science lesson about the stream is just a smart-phone tap away.
"We hope that this will be the first really, truly connected Jamboree," said Mike Patrick, Director of Operations for The Summit, told The Register-Herald of Beckley (http://bit.ly/132dJbF). "We hope folks will be sending Twitter messages back, posting on Facebook, instant messaging their friends back home and sending streaming video."
The Summit is home to nearly a dozen cell towers and almost 250 WiFi hotspots spread throughout the site. And an adventure base known as "The Cloud" offers Science, Technology, Engineering and Math (STEM) activities and displays related to robotics and computer science.
A group of tech-savvy Scouts and Venturers known as "Patrol Z" are charged with telling the story of the Jamboree through blogs and social media.
"If we want to reach out to a broader group of young people, we need to be doing what they like to do," Patrick said. "This is the wave of the future and that's where we think that we can open the door to more people that will be interested in Scouting."
Many Scout leaders have tried to fight technology in the past, said Gary Hartley, director of community and government relations for The Summit. The event still will offer opportunities for those who want to get away from it all, with adventure bases and other activities.
But Jamboree officials will try to incorporate technology where it makes sense.
"We're actually going to do a new model where we're going to embrace the outdoors, embrace the technology, make the two fit together and actually encourage kids to get outside and use technology to do that," Hartley said.
Mike Mailand, the jamboree coordinator for a group of 240 Scouts from Appleton, Wis., said group is trying to strike a delicate balance of wire and unplugged activities.
"We're trying to work with our youth so that they can balance the use of the technology and not have that interfere with all the opportunities that are available, a tool to enhance the Jamboree experience," Mailand said. "You don't want them sitting waiting for their device to get charged up. Somebody can go to the Jamboree without a smartphone and have a great time."