Junior Leadership Training 2020

With County guidelines allowing some level of distanced but in-person activities, we were able to hold our annual Junior Leadership Training at the scout hall. This was the first time most of us had been back at the hall since March and it was nice to be around some familiar facilities.

Naturally, we were all masked-up, distanced sitting and during the activities and there was gobs of hand sanitizer flowing around!

Our Scoutmaster drive a full 3 hour program of meeting planning, Scouts and Troop organization, roles and responsibilities review, and a focus on the upcoming Troop elections. This was all peppered with some fun 🙂 – including 2 quizzes, and a pioneering (poles and lashings) leadership game.

Click picture above, or link, to visit photo gallery

Streaming troop activities with OBS

We have been doing well for a couple of months having scouts share skills through presentations, or discussion, on our weekly virtual meetings. I wanted to go further and experiment with a live-stream of a demo: this would give an experience closer to that or a regular, in-person, Troop meeting.

This post covers the technical setup and experience in streaming a scout meeting live – it may be of interest or use to some!

Hardware and software required

All the hardware components I had at home as part of working-from-home or general home tech.

  • Laptop: MacBook Pro
  • Cameras: 2 x logitech webcams (one a B910, one a C920)
  • Camera mounts: 1 x old tripod from 1990, and 1 x wooden post with duct tape
  • Mic / Speaker: Bose Revolve

Software used was as follows

  • OBS (Open Broadcaster Software) – this is free, open source, and in wide use by the streaming community
  • Google Meet – but this approach should for Zoom, Skype, Teams, other web meeting tools as long as they can accept a webcam input
  • Virtual Webcam plugin for OBS – this is critical, and enables the OBS output to appear as a “webcam” on your computer

How-to

Physically setup your cameras as you wish, plugin them in, and make sure they are recongised by your laptop. Then install your flavour of OBS (in my case, the experimental pkg that included the virtual cam tool for MacOS).

Install the virtual cam plugin tool, or check that it is active under Tools > Start VirtualCam. At this point, i fired up meet.google.com and checked I could see “OBS Camera” as a video input option. If you can’t – restart Chrome, or your mac and try again.

For sound, I wanted to use a mic close to the presenter and the webcam mikes would have a lot of noise. So I bluetooth paired my Bose Revolve to the laptop and simply set the speaker and mic in meet.google.com to use this source.

At this point, you are into the realm of OBS setup – and definitely watch a few YouTube intro guides on OBS: I kept it super simple with a “scene” for each camera (one wide angle and one close-up) and using the Studio mixer to cut between the two as required,

OBS running on macbook pro, output using virtualcam to Google Meet
OBS with virtual cam plugin streaming to Google Meet

Results and lessons learned

The scariest thing was installing the un-signed pkg with the experimental inclusion of the virtualcam plugin for MacOS. I also turned of OBS auto-updates to stop the build breaking. I hope the main branch of OBS for MacOS gets this capability soon – it appears to be in progress in github.

It was fun to do, and I felt the combination of having the close-up and wide camera angles, and the quality mic / speaker near the presenter allowed for a much more natural Troop skill share. You can watch below!

Google Meet recording of the fire lighting demo, starts at 21m50s

Latest Troop stats – April 2020

Thanks to Mary B for some help updating the Troop roster (public version with redacted personal info available here and linked from the home page) we have a fresh set of stats about the Troop

We have 37 scouts that are registered or in the process of registering. This does include a few that are inactive but still formally a part of the Troop.

We can see a spread of ranks below. A good number of Lifers stacking up to work through final Eagle requirements and projects, and a good number of new scouts (and some less active scouts) that are starting their journey.

Numbers of active scouts by rank

As we run an integrated Troop to the extent we can, it’s also interesting to look at the gender split. Note that we record gender as provider by the scout on their form which currently only allows for male-female choice. We have 10 female scouts, or 27% of the Troop.

If you have any questions, feel free to drop a question below or get in contact.

COVID-19 response: keeping the Troop truckin’ – virtually

COVID-19 response: Troop policy (effective immediately)
COVID-19 response: virtual scouting – a guide
Virtual Scouting resources

As the outbreak of COVID-19 in Santa Clara County continues to accelerate, BSA Scout Troop 260 has established the following policy. It is effective immediately, as of March 14 2020. Troop 260 has put in place this policy and associated guidelines to keep scouts and adult volunteers safe during Troop 260 activities as well as be socially responsible in support of limiting the spread of the virus.

Troop leadership (uniformed adult leaders and committee members) is following guidance and recommendations set forth by local and national health authorities. Where ambiguity exists, we are erring on the side of caution.

COVID-19 brings unprecedented and challenging changes to our normal routine. However, there is a determination by troop leadership to keep our Scouts BSA program by using virtual means!

We encourage scouts and adults to read, understand and – where required, suggest improvements to – this policy and the virtual scouting guidelines. At the same time, we challenge scouts and adults to show their scout spirit in adapting to what we all hope will be a relatively short disruption.

— Troop 2/260 Scoutmaster and Chair

YASP (yet another shed post)

Yes, the new shed is up and our gear was in. But it wasn’t in neatly! And a good Scout is organized and tidy, as we all know. So it was back in action for Yet Another Shed Day (YASD) this time getting shelving up.

A nimble cadre of adults and Scouts chopped, trimmed, screwed and hefted for 4 hours, after which we had all of one long side done, and the start of a short side. We were able to fill up the completed shelving and – wow – it is going to make a huge difference in accessing and using our Troop Gear.

One more session to go! (time to be confirmed)

CLICK IMAGE or HERE to see full Gallery

Trip Report: Pinnacles NP backpacking training 2001

Almost a year after our last visit, the Troop once again headed South to Pinnacles NP: only 1.5 hours from San Jose, but a world apart from the bustle and business we experience locally. A healthy sized group of 22 used all the daylight on Saturday to carry full packs almost 10 miles with nearly everyone doing an extra quick 2+ mile loop through some caves to the reservoir.

En route, we didn’t get to see the mythical Condor Whisperer didgeridoo player, but we did get some glorious weather as the clouds broke and enjoyed spectacular views over the rock formations, some hawks and possibly a condor or two. Scouts and Adults alike carried full backpacks, including our evening food. As we enter the new calendar year, it’s essential to get more practice in carrying loads of terrain for longer periods as we get towards 50-miler planning.

The Group campsite in the evening was excellent. A huge oak tree, tables, bear lockers and a bathroom block nearby — luxury not enjoyed on the open trail! The adults enjoyed Chicken Curry and cookies, whilst the scouts boiled tortellini and waved sausages (pre-cooked) at the fire. The night was calm, punctuated with some very vocal owls. 

This trip was an important milestone for two of the party: Tristan and Weston. Both (almost) Eagle scouts turn 18 in a few days time and thus “age out” of the BSA program. We are sad that our future adventures will not have them along as Scouts, but they are always welcome as Adults (providing they do their YPT!). Thanks, and bon chance to both.

CLICK HERE for the full Gallery

Weston S, Eagle Project

Another 260 Eagle Project has been completed. This time it was scout, and Troop Guide, Weston S making a new garden area for Olinder Elementary School, San Jose. The kids have two large, easy to reach planters (a Troop specialty!) and some large round half barrels that have transformed an otherwise underused and unattractive corner.

Weston is completing his final Eagle Rank stages this month in advance of ageing-out. Great job!

Weston Eagle Project
CLICK IMAGE ABOVE FOR GALLERY, or here

Happy New Shed Day!

An exciting update from the new Troop storage shed project manager – David. On 31 December, the crew came to deliver and install the new storage shed on the space we had cleared on the Church grounds.

They arrived early, and worked hard for several hours setting the foundation, and then completing the build. They achieved a massive amount in a short space of time.

The returning Cycling Merit Badge group got a sneak preview inside!

Next stage is to complete the power, consider shelving, and get stuff moved-in! It’s going to be great for the program and for the Scoutmasters to have all our gear onsite.

Thanks to all involved 🙂

CLICK PHOTO FOR FULL GALLERY

Trip Report: Pine Valley 1911

With temperature swings of more than 20 Celsius (30 F) in only a few hours, and close on 2,000 feet (600m) of climbing, Pine Valley can be a challenge. But the beauty more than makes up for it.

Around 3 hours South of San Jose, and inland from Carmel Valley, the Ventana Wilderness forms part of the Los Padres National Forest. For decades, Troop 260 has returned to one particular section on our ‘backpacking years’ – from China Camp into Pine Valley camp. This route offers a short way into the solitude of the wilderness, and a higher level of physical challenges that starts to prepare scouts (and adults!) for the 50-miler. There is reliable water in a small tributary of the Carmel River that runs past the camp, making for a cool refreshing draft at day’s end.

We were a group of 19 (including 11 scouts) of who for several this was their first (or second) backpacking trip with the Troop. Bravo in particular for their commitment and effort!

An extra ‘dimension’ on this trip was that a total fire ban precluded the use of even backpacking stoves. The hot-or-cold menu went reasonably well, but we aren’t sure that warming rice pouches under your arm pits is a top tip that will make the next Scouts BSA handbook 🙂

Most of us took the time to go and visit Jack English’s old cottage – it is still in good condition and appears to be maintained. Despite Jack no longer being there, Mark Cahn did share some stories with us of his conversations with Jack over the decades. Some with more info below the picture gallery link (thanks Kate).

CLICK PICTURE BELOW TO ACCESS THE GALLERY

Eagles’ Nest expansion!

Troop 260 is gearing up to expand its Eagles’ nest, with a newly confirmed Eagle rank holder and 3 recently completed Eagle projects

Scout, and newly elected Senior Patrol Leader, Harris C received confirmation from the National Exec recently, making him the Troop’s 106th Eagle Scout. Congratulations Harris!

New Eagle and SPL, Harris C

We also have had three scouts undertake their Eagle projects over the past couple of months, which brings them all close to completing their highest level of scouting.

We are looking forward to the coming few months and seeing Tristan, Enzo and John advance through their final Eagle Rank stages.