Scout Meeting Challenge: Atomic Pile

The Atomic Pile as featured on Garden Ground Mountain in the pioneering area at the 2013 national jamboree inspired this smaller scale version which can be set up outdoors on a lawn for a troop meeting. Instead of heavy spars serving as corner uprights and cross spars defining the boundary, this modification uses light corner upright poles and cords. Everything else is lighter as well.

The Atomic Pile provides an excellent opportunity for team building while also effectively honing individual leadership skills. Additionally, it can provide an opportunity to test what can be termed “group leadership,” which will manifest to a greater or lesser degree the ability of a group to lead itself when there is no one assigned the leadership role.

The following Atomic Pile structure is only one simple version, designed for short-term use. It works very well during a troop meeting. When featured for extended use, like at a camporee or public gathering, a more solidly-built construction is in order.

The log is steadied on top of a corner mark.
The log is steadied on top of a corner square.

Suggested Materials

  • four 8 to 10-foot x 2-inch poles for corner uprights
  • twelve 4-inch diameter wooden discs -or- 4-inch squares of lumber, four of them painted with the numeral “5,” four with “10,” and four with “20”
  • one 4-inch diameter log, 15 inches long with a large eye hook on one side and a flat, even surface on the other
  • four small single pulleys
  • four 40-foot lengths of 1/4-inch braided nylon cord for the pulleys
  • four 25-foot lengths of 1/4-inch braided nylon cord for the boundary lines and guylines
  • four 3-foot lengths of 1/8-inch nylon cord to attach pulleys to the corner uprights
  • four 30-inch pioneering stakes to stabilize the corner uprights
  • eight 10-15-foot x 1/4-inch manila lashing ropes for connecting the pioneering stakes to the uprights
  • four smaller stakes for the guylines, to help steady the corner uprights
The pulleys are attached to the corner uprights with a prusik. A heavy eyebolt is screwed into the log. The ends of the 50' cords are tied to the eye hook with a roundturn and two half hitches. The numbered blocks are positioned inside the 10' x 10' square.
Atomic Drop Components

BUILDING THE STRUCTURE

Putting up an Atomic Pile activity is well within the capability of most patrols, and by dividing the tasks, can be completed in under 30 minutes. However, building the Atomic Pile is not as key to team building and leadership development as is actually using the structure.

How will the corner uprights stay erect? It will be impractical to keep the corner uprights in a rigid vertical position with three guylines like a flagpole. So, you’ve got three choices to hold them up:

  1. Use a post hole digger to sink the uprights into the ground deep enough to firmly support them.
  2. Drive in a pioneering stake and then lash the upright to the stake to hold it up.
  3. Do both 1 and 2 (often recommended).

Raise the corner uprights. In the flat place the Atomic Pile will be situated, lay the 10-foot poles out in a 10′ x 10′ square. Just outside the 90° angle formed by the poles, either dig a hole deep enough to support the first upright, or firmly drive in a pioneering stake straight into the ground.

Knots at Corner Upright
Boundary Cords / GuyLines

Before standing up the pole, using a 3-foot cord, attach a pulley about an inch from the tip with a prusik. Wrap the cord as many times as needed so the pulley hangs down a couple of inches. Using a 40-foot cord, reeve one end through the pulley and then tie that end to the eye hook of the 4-inch-diameter log with a roundturn with two half hitches. Place the log in the center of the square.

When you’re ready, place the butt end of the pole into the hole and tamp it down firmly, or lash the butt end tightly to the pioneering stake with two round lashings. Of course, depending on how rigid the pole is standing, as needed, do both.

Repeat the process for the three other corner uprights.

Tie on the boundary lines. About 4 feet up from the ground, with a clove hitch, tie one end of a 25-foot cord to a corner upright. Walk the cord to the next pole in the square and with a rolling hitch, tie it on so the cord is parallel to the ground, keeping the line taut. The running end of the cord should extend out about 15 feet from where the rolling hitch was tied. This will serve as a guyline for that corner pole.

Repeat the process with the other three 25-foot cords, starting with a clove hitch tied right next to the rolling hitch.

Link to: Larger Image
Set up for a Troop Meeting and Played with during Pre-opening Gathering Period

Secure the guylines. Firmly hammer in a smaller stake 45° out from each corner upright, about 8 feet away. Attach the length of cord extending from the rolling hitch to the stake with a taut-line hitch. Pull it tight. This will add a little extra support.

The only thing left to do is position the 4 inch discs or blocks inside the 10′ x 10′ square. The four 20s can be placed near the corners, the 5s can be placed near the center, and the 10s between the center and the corners.

Scouts face away from the “Atomic Pile” and rely on the leader’s directives.

Challenges. An Atomic Pile presents a variety of alternatives in the way of activities, and even spectators are afforded their own form of entertainment observing the progress and prowess of those at the pulley ropes. This is especially pronounced when patrol teams compete against one another.

  • Within a preset time limit, using a heads on approach, groups of four can be challenged to balance the log for five seconds on as many discs (or blocks) as they can. This simple challenge can be self-led, that is, without a fifth Scout issuing commands, or can be conducted with an assigned leader who does not handle a pulley rope.
  • Instead of the quantity of discs, scores can be achieved in accordance with the point value painted on each disc.
  • Scouts man each pulley rope, but instead of facing the square, each must turn their back to the discs. Naturally, in order to maneuver the log from this position, they must rely on an assigned leader to direct their actions.

Incorporating the Atomic Pile into the meeting.

  • The Atomic Pile can be utilized by groups of Scouts during the gathering period preceding the opening ceremony.
  • During the meeting, individual patrols can be assigned a period where they engage in the activity by themselves, either to hone their leadership skills or practice for an interpatrol competition.
  • As an interpatrol activity, patrols can enter their teams to compete against one another in any of the challenges listed above.

SCOUT MEETING CHALLENGES MAIN PAGE

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