Living With Technology / The technology behind jamboree
My son became a Boy Scout about a year-and-a-half ago. He had heard of and really wanted to participate in this year’s National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia. This is the world’s largest event of Scouts that gathers every four years.
This year, for 10 days in July, an estimated 35,000 Scouts from around the world plus 5,000 staff (adults who help run the event) gathered at the Summit Bechtel Reserve for World Scout Jamboree 2017. For these 10 days, the jamboree facility becomes the third-largest city in West Virginia.
While my son went as a Boy Scout, I was lucky to be accepted in a staff role. I volunteered in the Information Technology/Communications area, helping with the two-way radio communications.
I was expecting to see lots of Scouting events and activities, but was unprepared for the level of infrastructure that goes into creating a jamboree. In my role with IT/C, I had a firsthand view of the technology and other infrastructure that makes a bamboree safe, fun and function.
Here are some numbers that I gathered during my time at jamboree:
10 cell towers dot the 80,000 acres of the Summit Bechtel Reserve;
150 closed circuit cameras were brought in by the FBI from Quantico, Va., for the event, adding to the 50 that are permanently installed;
Approximately 1,000 two-way radios are in use by police, fire, medical, administrative and other staff;
400 to 500 cellphones are handed out for staff to use;
More than 600 laptop computers are used in the various venues;
80 tablet computers are distributed;
Seven medical facilities are created in the different Scout base camps and common areas that provide safety for the participants;
1,100 military staff participate in the event, including Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines and National Guard;
200 UTV (“ruggedized” four-wheel drive golf carts) are used to shuttle people and equipment around;
80 miles of fiberoptic cable cover the facility;
200 WiFi hotspots provide internet connectivity to Scouts and staff; and
10 helicopters were at jamboree over the course of the 10 days, some onsite, such as the MedEvac helicopters, but also some military Blackhawk and other types;
On arrival and departure days, more than 800 buses were used to drop off and then pick up the Scouts, Scoutmasters and camping gear in a period of about five hours.
There were a number of aspects that pleasantly surprised me:
First, all of the technology deployment went extremely well. This is a testament to the years of work by the Boy Scouts of America staff and its team of volunteers and contractors who made it happen;
Second, while jamboree is an event for Scouts, it’s also an excellent venue for federal, state and local governments to test out their equipment, logistics and people so that in the case of a true emergency, they have some experience that will help quickly and effectively deploy needed services; and
Third, by and large, this technology was invisible to the Scouts that attended Jamboree 2017. While most of the Scouts had cellphones and used them daily, the aspects of Scouting that do not require technology were intact and the Scouts were able to have an amazing experience.
Mark Mathias is a 35-plus-year information technology executive and a resident of Westport. His columns can be read at blog.mathias.org. He can be contacted at livingwithtechnology@