16-year-old Out-of-Door student commits to earning all 137. And does it.
Many people picked up a hobby during the pandemic — Eagle Scout Owen Eakle tried out more than 100.
The 16-year-old Out-of-Door Academy student spent days upon days cultivating a vegetable garden. He’s taken in the importance of fiscal responsibility by tracking his finances over a matter of weeks. He’s learned the various workings of the ocean at Mote Marine Laboratory, how to hammer and shape metals in Tennessee, and much more.
There was a greater purpose to Eakle's explorations. He's one of few Scouts to earn all 137 merit badges possible. Fewer than 500 Scouts (of 110 million) have ever done it.
“I knew we’d be able to figure it out eventually,” Eakle said, going well past the 21 to qualify for Eagle. “(The Scouts) were just trying to get me to learn something. I’d just need to be persistent and get them done.”
Eakle’s journey started years ago where he started collecting badges out of fun and interest at a pace of around five badges a month. But when the pandemic arrived and he found himself stuck in quarantine, he decided to truly go for it and acquire every badge he could.
“When I started, (collecting 137 badges) seemed way out of where I could go,” he said. “I had 60 merit badges at the beginning of quarantine last year … at that point I was just like ‘Let’s go for the rest of them’. I was so close and didn’t want to waste the opportunity.”
Eakle had to find a council member to approve his work for each merit badge, and not all of them were in Florida. His troop counselors were on hand to help with the more immediate badges but Eakle had to search extensively on the internet to find the many others to finish his quest.
“Something like a truck transportation merit badge is so obscure it was so incredibly hard to find a counselor who even knew about it," Eakle said.
His badge quest sometimes became a family road trip when his father Jim drove their family to various other cities and states to acquire more badges. Some places like Tampa were a short drive, but the family drove to Tennessee to get the whitewater rafting, metalworking and kayaking training.
“We always encouraged him to go for the badges that were profession based,” Jim Eakle said. “They run from plumbing to nuclear science to chemistry … (most badges) were easy to find but those last 20 percent were rare.”
Every journey has its moments of crisis. While Eakle found himself adept at completing dozens upon dozens of tasks, there were other challenges that were simply hard to accomplish. There were truly dark days where he found himself struggling to roller skate backwards and later trying to play musical notes with a bugle.
“Bugling was not one of the good ones,” Eakle said.
His journey recently ended when he earned his rowing badge at Nathan Benderson Park. Like many accomplishments, it came with a feeling of intense satisfaction with a touch of sadness at being finished.
“I’ve been thinking about how relieved I’d feel when I got all of them.” Eakle said. ‘It was like ‘I’m here, what do I do now?"
Eakle has thought more about what he wants to do for his career as he progresses further into high school. He thinks he'll go for a career in medicine but said it's good to know he has options.
"I know I can do anything I can set my mind to," Eakle said. "I have 137 (badges) to show for that.”
- Nuclear science - Eakle learned about the many moving pieces and scientific innovations that go into creating nuclear power around a year ago. He had to put together a molecule of uranium that’s used on nuclear submarines using clay.
- Small boat sailing - Eakle spent his Christmas break last year sailing at a scout camp in Central Florida. Luckily, he already had some expertise in the hobby and spent his time cruising while otherss learned the basics.
- “While everybody else was kind of like doing the classwork, I was just making rounds back and forth,” Eakle said.
- Climbing - Eakle spent a few days climbing at a tower in North Carolina three years ago. There were a few close calls where he almost slipped and went tumbling, but he still managed to reach the top.
- Movie Making - Eakle made the most of the early days of quarantine last year going after his movie making badge. He learned how to transition and set up scenes by positioning himself in different clothes and having a filmed conversation with himself.
- Genealogy - Eakle went researching his family tree and learned that most of his family were clustered around a small area in Western Europe. On a more personal note, he said he valued talking with his grandfather about growing up in rural Kentucky.