5 Questions with Directors of STEM Programs April McMillan and Trent Nichols

If you’ve been following Scouting Wire, you’ve undoubtedly heard about the STEM Scouts pilot program extending to 12 councils nationwide. But how much do you know about the leadership behind the innovative program? As part of our #BSA5Questions series, we’re helping you get to know Directors of STEM Programs April McMillan and Trent Nichols. Read below, as the two share everything from their extensive Scouting backgrounds, to their fields of study, to their favorite campout foods.


What’s most exciting about your role as National Director of STEM Programs?

April: Seeing that Scouting can be delivered to a whole new market – youth who are currently not being exposed to Scouting and seeing a difference made in those lives.

Trent: Getting to meet and see Scouts in action while also meeting fantastic, dedicated, and talented volunteers from all over the country is the most exciting thing.

Do you have a Scouting background? What drew you to the BSA?  

April: I’ve been an associate advisor for Venturing Crew 2010 and the L&N STEM Academy in Knoxville, TN. I’ve taught at the Philmont Training Center and Sea Base. I also served as the advisor for the inaugural STEM Trek at Philmont.

Currently I’m on the Executive Board of the Great Smoky Mountain Council and co-chair for the National STEM Task Force turned committee. I recently received the Silver Beaver award, and I’m scheduled to participate in my Order of the Arrow induction ceremony.

My family is very active in Scouting. My husband is a Life Scout and my daughter serves as Venturing Crew president, VP of communications on the GSMC Venturing Officers’ Association, and Southern Region Area 6 president. She is a Silver Award recipient and has earned her Ranger.

Trent: I’ve earned the Eagle, God and Country, and Silver Beaver awards, and I’m Brotherhood in the Order of the Arrow. I was an assistant Scoutmaster, an associate advisor of one of the first Venturing Crews in the Great Smoky Mountain Council, and returned to Venturing as the associate advisor to a High-Adventure and STEM Venturing Crew. I served as a physician at Philmont and taught at the Philmont Training Center and Sea Base.

Except for a short period of time, I have served on the executive board of the Great Smoky Mountain Council since 1994 with most of the time on the executive committee. I was the chair of the council STEM Committee and later served as chair of the STEM Nova/Supernova Task Force.

My family is a Scouting family. My father was a Scoutmaster, my wife earned First Class in Girl Scouts, my son is an Eagle Scout, and my daughter is a Gold Award recipient in Girl Scouts as well as a Venturer.

What drew you to the BSA?  

April: I have had a passion for working with youth in science outreach and science education for my entire career, and I totally subscribe to the values upon which Scouting is based – so it was a natural fit for me to combine these two significant parts of my life.

Trent: As a youth, it was the challenge to prove myself and to reach Eagle.  As an adult, it is to instill the values that were instilled in me into America’s youth.

What did you do before you took on your current role?  

April: For 25 years, I was a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory. It didn’t take long for me to marry my graduate studies in materials science with my life science background and conduct not only materials research in a wide variety of fields, (carbon, ceramics, polymers, and a little bit in metals) but to add biomedical research for the remainder of my career.

Trent: For the past nearly 30 years, I have practiced internal medicine and performed clinical research, mainly in boron neutron transfer therapy for the last six of those years. I was a researcher at Oak Ridge National Laboratory until I left to join the BSA in March 2015.  I have a BS in Engineering Physics, MS in theoretical condensed matter physics, PhD in theoretical nuclear physics, and MD.

 How is the STEM pilot program significant to the Scouting experience?  

April: The STEM Scouts pilots shows us that we are attracting kids who aren’t in Scouting – so STEM Scouts gives us the opportunity to have that impact on them while doing things they love to do.

Trent: When you observe youth in STEM Scouting, the same adult mentoring and youth learning that occurs in current Scouting units is apparent with STEM Scouts. One sees the same adult mentoring that so shapes young lives, as well as the youth learning the values of the Scout Oath and Law.

And, most importantly, what’s your go-to campout food?  

April: I found out years ago that I am gluten intolerant, but my favorite campout food before then would definitely have been Dutch oven cobbler! People might be surprised that I love chocolate, marshmallows, and (gluten free) graham crackers but not s’mores. (Go figure!)

Trent:  This is the hardest question! I think hamburger, carrots, onions, and potatoes in tin foil cooked in the coals of a fire might be my favorite, especially on a crisp fall evening.

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Gina Circelli

Gina Circelli is the Digital Editor for Boys' Life. She loves sharing news about Scouts who shake up pop culture or contribute to their communities in a big way. If you have story ideas, reach out to the team at communications@scouting.org.


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5 Questions with Directors of STEM Programs April McMillan and Trent Nichols
5 Questions with Directors of STEM Programs April McMillan and Trent Nichols
5 Questions with Directors of STEM Programs April McMillan and Trent Nichols