Dresden Station hosts merit badge clinic

COAL CITY FIRE Protection District Lt. Nick Doerfler taught fire safety at Saturday’s STEM Merit Badge Clinic at Dresden Station. The collaboration between Dresden and the Boy Scouts of America’s Rainbow Council drew 400 people for the day-long event.

Scouts earned hundreds of merit badges Saturday at Dresden Station in Morris, where the nuclear energy facility hosted more than 400 people from throughout the region in a day-long, hands-on STEM Merit Badge Clinic.
The opening ceremony kicked off at 7:30 a.m. Saturday, Aug. 10, at the station, located at 6500 N. Dresden Road, and continued throughout the day. It’s the seventh year in a row for the partnership between Dresden Station and Boy Scouts of America, which draws scouts from surrounding towns and much of northern Illinois as well as Indiana, Wisconsin, and Michigan.
It’s the largest clinic to-date at the station, as scouts, ranging in age from 11 to 17, chose from 17 different categories, including nuclear science, fingerprinting, first aid, and electrical maintenance.
“Kids are actually taking a tire off, actually changing the oil,” said Bryan Schulte, an instrument maintenance control system technician at Dresden. “We have the facility and the equipment that they can do this in a safe environment.”
While merit badge clinics exist in other places throughout the country, Dresden’s partnership brings a unique element in that it takes place at a nuclear facility. Additionally, parents and scouts alike praised the level of instructional and institutional knowledge being shared by volunteers—many of whom retired from Exelon after decades-long careers.
In addition to being the largest clinic ever, it was the first time girls participated under the scouts’ recently broadened guidelines.
Schulte, of Braidwood, organizes the event on behalf of the station and is also scout master of Rainbow Council’s Troop 19, in addition to several other instructional roles within the council. As a father of a son and two daughters, he couldn’t be more excited to welcome the new and eager participants.
“We’re fortunate and very happy to get the girls involved. Now my daughters are trying to get the Eagle Scout,” he said.
Of the 288 kids signed up to earn badges, 30 of them were girls.
Scouts could potentially pursue two badges from those available: nuclear science; engineering; electricity; electronics; signs, signals, and codes; first aid; medicine; plumbing; bird study; automotive maintenance; farm mechanics; fire safety; traffic safety; railroading; fingerprinting; pet care, and reptiles and amphibians.
About 100 of the scouts at Saturday’s clinic camped at the nearby Rainbow Council Scout Camp for the weekend. Dresden Station bussed the scouts from the camp to the station for the day, providing lunch and hours of hands-on educational experience.
Dresden Generating Station is home to the nation's first full-scale, privately financed nuclear power plant, which began operation in 1960. Capable of generating 210 megawatts of electricity before its retirement in 1978, Dresden Unit 1 is designated a Nuclear Historic Landmark by the American Nuclear Society.
Dresden Units 2 and 3 began commercial operation in June 1970 and November 1971 respectively. These two operating Dresden units generate a combined 1,845 net megawatts of electricity, which is enough power to support the electricity needs of more than 1.5 million average American homes.
Rainbow Council—Boy Scouts of America located in Lockport, serves youth in Will, Grundy and Kankakee counties and includes troops from Coal City, Wilmington, Elwood and Gardner.
The council also operates the Rainbow Scout Reserve in Goose Lake Township. This is a year-round camp facility on 600 acres supporting all Scouting activities.