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Problem Solving Merit Badge Proposal

Hey, this is something I’ve been thinking about for a while now… I’m running into so many young (and not young) people lacking problem solving skills (or maybe I’m getting old and grouchy). To me, this is one of the most important things I look for when I’m interviewing people, and it’s a critical skill that we could be teaching our youth to really help them stand apart when they’re looking for a job.

What do you all think about a merit badge to teach problem solving?

This merit badge is intended to introduce Scouts to the concepts of structured problem solving. It will also present several popular problem solving approaches and teach Scouts to define problems in terms of desired outcomes. These are critical thinking skills that will help Scouts personally and professionally throughout their lives.


  1. Define “problem”, “root cause”, “cause and effect”, “brainstorming” and “solution”.
  2. Describe the steps in the problem solving process.
    – Define the problem
    – Generate alternative solutions
    – Evaluate and select a solution
    – Implement and follow up on solution
  3. Identify a “problem” in your Troop, School, or Community and write a problem definition statement for it, then generate a list of at least three alternative solutions. Present the problem definition statement and alternative solution list to your Merit Badge Counselor.
  4. Define “structured problem solving” with your Merit Badge and learn about one structured problem solving tool.
  5. Visit with someone that uses problem solving in their daily job and do the following:
    – . Discuss the work this person does and the problem-solving tools they use.
    – b. Discuss with this person a current problem-solving project and their particular role in it.
    – Ask to see the reports that this person writes concerning the project.
    – Discuss with your counselor what you learned about engineering from this visit.
  6. Find out about three career opportunities that utilize problem solving. Pick one and research the education, training, and experience required for this profession. Discuss this with your counselor, and explain why this profession might interest you.

For reference, here’s the American Society for Quality page about problem solving.

5 may be difficult as many people who a Scout could talk to about how they use problem solving in their work cannot show reports or even talk about actual problems they have worked on. I woudl rewrite this to allow a hypothetical problem to be discussed.

The last point of 5 specifically mentions engineering, however, it does not require visiting with an engineer. There are other professions that require problem solving. Maybe rewrite this as what you learned about problem solving…

As an engineer, I like the concept of a problem solving MB, outside of the Engineering MB. I agree problem solving skills are lacking in the general population.

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If a Scout attends School they have Math teachers…They solve problems and teach people how to solve problems.

There’s a huge difference between solving a math problem and solving a non-math problem. I run in to plenty of intern candidates that can solve for X, but if you ask them to fix a real-world problem, just stare at you with a total lack of comprehension.

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I would think that being able to state that this is a problem that can be solved arethemically or is outside of that construct is an important component. Now mind you I spent a decade in civil engineering and the last twenty in the awesome silent world of data centers

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Thanks. I originally had “engineer” throughout, since I’m a quality engineer. I thought I changed that everywhere, but obviously missed it there. And really, it applies to so many jobs – what is a mechanic doing when you bring your car in with a weird noise? What is a doctor doing when you come in with a nagging cough?

You can almost put a WB game in this - like at Troop last night Scouts played Isotope which they had not played for a long time, and it went as you would predict. Then me and 2 other adults took the ropes and did it, afterwards having a conversation of what we did different, how we communicated and listened different than the Scouts were.

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As a History/Government/Humanities teacher, I like this idea. I see how you came to this from an engineering perspective, but with my background, I initially/automatically read it as societal problems (division, miscommunication, discrimination, equity…).

I think it might be interesting/valuable to put scouts in hypothetical scenarios that simulate both the engineering-ish aspect of solving problems AND the looking at societal issues and proposing/brainstorming/discussing with peers steps that could be taken towards a solution. In a lot of ways we’d be talking about the same skills sets and thought processes, but applying them to a greater variety of situations.

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Yes! One teacher I greatly respected defined a problem as a gap between what you want and what you have. I haven’t found a better definition for a problem yet, and I’ve been at this professional problem solving thing for nearly 30 years.

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