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Boy and Girl Scouts? Meet the hacker scouts

Next week is the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts. In its honor, Adafruit Industries is launching DIY merit awards. Release a high-altitude balloon? Here's your badge.

Here are two of the badges that kids could earn from Adafruit for demonstrating DIY geek skills.

If you were ever a Boy Scout, you may recall earning an archery or camping badge. Girl Scouts offer athlete, naturalist, and many others. But what if you're a kid with serious 3D printing or laser cutting chops? Is there a badge for you?

There is now, thanks to the folks at Adafruit Industries, a New York-based open source hardware and maker products emporium. Starting in the next few days--timed to the 100th anniversary of the Girl Scouts on March 12--Adafruit will begin offering a broad set of skill badges that reward kids--and presumably others--for completing any of a long list of the kind of tasks that would be right at home at Maker Faire.

Learned to solder? There's a badge for that. "You sent something to space, almost," Adafruit offers its high-altitude balloon project badge. Worked on an Android or Linux project? Adafruit has you covered.

For now at least, Adafruit's badges have no affiliation with the actual Girl Scouts or Boy Scouts.

The leaderboard for Adafruits so-called Hacker Scout badges. The badges celebrate kids who demonstrate DIY era geek skills. Adafruit Industries

While the company is selling the various badges on its Web site, it is also separately rewarding kids who demonstrate their skills. Adafruit co-founder Limor Fried "will award a badge to a kid when she sees they are publishing/making cool projects," Phillip Torrone, Fried's partner at Adafruit and a writer for "Make" magazine, told CNET. "When they are awarded a badge they get an email to get a real one sent to them in the mail and they a get a digital version (and profile) online with the badge(s) they earned."

Naturally, an initiative like this comes with public leaderboards that showcase the kids who have demonstrated the most geek skills, and Adafruit is likely to put out an API that would allow developers to plug their own projects into the system. "The goal is to celebrate skill earning the same way kids play video games," Torrone said, "unlocking achievements and earning badges."

The project has been in private beta for a while, and a look at some of the participating kids' accomplishments gives a good sense of what Adafruit is going for.

For example, there's 15-year-old Joey Hudy who loves to "build, solder, [and] weld anything that involves electronics or engineering [and who] invented the Extreme Marshmallow Cannon and the 3x3x3 LED Cube Arduino Shield." Hudy has earned the oscilloscope badge. There is also SuperAwesomeSylvia, who got the Drawdio badge, which celebrates combining drawing and music.

For the moment, Adafruit is doing this project on its own. But Torrone said that he and Fried have hopes--unrealized so far--that they can get either or both of the Boy Scouts of America or the Girl Scouts of America to adopt the idea of rewarding DIY-era accomplishments with these new badges.

Of course, the Boy Scouts already has a series of badges given to kids who, for example, have worked on robotics, studied nuclear science, or gone geocaching.

But Adafruit is clearly hoping its emphasis on the geek arts, plus the digital element will attract a lot of participants. Think of it as "hacker scouts," Torrone says, a "scouting program that's more peer-to-peer, distributed, [and] built in the 21st century utilizing the tools and technology we have."