Seventeen-year-old Zach Sheeley said being a member of the Boy Scouts has provided him with a variety of opportunities and experience he wouldn’t have otherwise had.
And now, as he works on his Eagle Scout project, the 17-year old is trying to return the favor by creating a model that he hopes will inspire other young people to develop their interests and skills in technology.
With his fascination for electricity and computer technology, he built a robotic city from scratch. The project is equipped with working streetlights, illuminated buildings and a running car.
Zach has been an active member of Boy Scouts of America since he became a Cub Scout in the second grade. Now, as a senior at Tullahoma High School, Zach is obtaining the rank of Eagle Scout, which is the highest rank a Boy Scout can achieve.
“I’ve been given a lot of opportunities throughout my years in Boy Scouts,” said Zach. “I’ve been given the chance to do things I haven’t done before. Once, when I was Cub Scout, my troop took a trip to the Cumberland Caverns. We got to explore all the smaller parts of the cave and I remember crawling on my stomach to get through some spots. It’s not something I would’ve normally done and it taught me to step outside my comfort zone.”
According to Zach, to become an Eagle Scout, the individual applying must figure out a way to serve his community and learn how to become a leader while doing so. The project must benefit a nonprofit organization, and there is no limit as to what an individual can do for their project.
A Scout must also acquire a minimum of 21 merit badges to be considered for Eagle Scout status. Zach has earned 25.
“The Eagle ranking requires 21 merit badges,” he said. “Thirteen of which are mandatory to earn the ranking. The other eight are electives. So, Scouts may choose which ones they earn out of all the other badges Boy Scouts offers.”
When thinking about what to do for his Eagle Scout project, Zach remembered the love for science and electricity that his dad, Joseph Sheeley, an Aerospace Engineer at AEDC, instilled in him at a young age.
“When I was young, my dad taught me the basics of electricity,” Zach said. “The main objective of the project is to learn leadership. So I originally thought about building a robot that people could program themselves, but my dad suggested building a city instead.”
Zach decided to build a programmable robotic city that would hopefully spark in kids and adults an interest in electricity and computer programming. With the help the parents of two troop members who are electrical engineers along with his dad, Zach worked tirelessly on his project.
The project was built from the ground up. From the table that the city sits on, to each individual wire that powers the city, Zach spent approximately 200 hours bringing his vision to life.
The robotic city was not only time consuming, but it was also expensive to build. Zach had to become creative when thinking of ways to fundraise for his project.
“I knew my project was going to be expensive,” he said. “I had to find a way to get all the materials I needed for the project, including a computer. First Christian Church in Tullahoma sponsors our troop. They allowed me to have a spaghetti dinner to help raise funds for my project. They also donated two computers that they weren’t using anymore so that I wouldn’t have to buy a new one.”
In total, the project cost approximately $500 to construct. Zach also received a $100 gift card from Home Depot to help cover material costs for building supplies.
By the time the project was done, the robotic city had lights in the buildings, working traffic lights, music that could be programmed and a car that races the street between the city buildings. All traffic lights change colors and can sync to the beat of music.
“This project has taught me a lot about how electricity works,” Zach said. “It’s a lot of little details that make the city come together. The lights are LED lights that took several tries to wire up correctly. I learned so much about sound and how to use computer codes to program everything together.”
Zach said the lights can also be programmed to respond to outside lighting, so that the city’s lights come on if the room it sits in becomes dark and shut themselves off if the room lights come back on.
The whole project was constructed inside the Hands-On Science Center, to which the robotic city was donated to after completion.
“I wanted to impact and instill an interest in electronics and electricity in not only kids but adults, too,” Zach said. “I made a giant book and guide with step-by-step instructions on how to program the city. I also made a small, one-page instruction sheet on how to start the program. I did both so that kids and adults could understand how to work the city and make it how they want. Hopefully, those who use my demonstration will gain interest in technology and electricity.”
Zach said he appreciates the Hands-On Science Center and all the inspiration that it’s given to him over the years. He remembers finding the spark that ignited his love for science and math there as a child. He now volunteers his time to the center as a way to stay involved with science and help others find their love for it.
“The Hands-on Science Center has been a place to foster my love for science,” Zach said. “I volunteer here now because of how much I love science and math, and I want that to rub off onto someone else.”
Zach also shared his passion for the Boy Scouts, which has been a huge part of his life, and he encouraged other Scouts to obtain their Eagle status.
“I want to encourage other Scouts to stick with it,” he said. “I see a lot of others that are intimidated by the intensity of the award, but it’s so worth it. The award benefits you in the long run with more opportunities for scholarships for college. It teaches you essential skills that you won’t learn in school and those will help you a lot in life.”
“I’m really proud of Zach and I’ve watched him grow so much through Boy Scouts,” said Zach’s mother, Tanya Sheeley. “He’s achieved a great accomplishment. I’m happy that he’s sharing his coding knowledge with others and the community. Zach never takes the easy way out, and he persevered through the complexity of the project despite the troubles he had. He’s always up for a challenge and he always pushes himself.”
Zach is finishing up his last semester at Tullahoma High School, and he is considering attending the University of Alabama at Hunstville for a biochemistry degree. He adds that the degree has a lot of versatility and he will be happy as long as he ends up in a career that he loves.
For more information on Boy Scouts of America, including information on local troops and how to get involved, visit www.scouting.org.
Faith Few can be reached by email at email@example.com.