Mining engineering senior shares love of industry with Boy Scouts seeking badge

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — Whether you’re reading this on your cellphone, tablet or desktop computer, Sam Baker wants you to know one thing: It’s made almost entirely from materials mined from the ground.

Baker, a senior majoring in mining engineering, has championed a cause of informing people about the benefit — and necessity — of mining.

As a young teenager, Baker’s eyes were first opened to the industry while traveling along Rails-to-Trails in Clearfield County, Pennsylvania, with his father. While surveying abandoned coal mines along the trail the idea of merging engineering with his love of the outdoors began to take shape and influence his career path.

He’s also merged mining with another passion: the Boy Scouts of America.

When the Boy Scouts revived a mining badge in 2014, Baker, an Eagle Scout, jumped at the chance to be a part of the process. He quickly made connections with Glenn O. Hawbaker Inc. and began offering tours for dozens of boys seeking the badge. The Scouts completed safety training before touring a Pleasant Gap surface mine facility to witness how materials for local construction projects are extracted from the earth.

The Scouts loved the tours, Baker said.

“If you’re a 12-year-old boy, touring the mine and seeing the haul trucks that are as big as houses is an appealing thing to do on a Saturday afternoon,” he said. “One of the primary emphases of the badge is reinforcing the idea that if it’s not grown, it’s mined.”

Baker said one concept of the training is to get Scouts to think about the sources of items they use every day in the same way they are able to trace the foods they eat to farms.

“You learn about different minerals that are mined and how they’re used,” Baker. “Salt, coal, gold, silver, iron, copper. You learn how critical those are to everyday life.”

Scouts learned different mining methods and the pros and cons of each, he said. They learned how aggregates, like the limestone mined at the Hawbaker facility, are mined close to the point of use, whereas more expensive minerals, such as gold, silver and coal, can be extracted and shipped worldwide. The sessions stressed safety and environmental stewardship, as well.

Baker said mining is an interesting career path for Scouts because of their love of problem-solving and the outdoors. Meeting people who work in the industry helps them to explore that option.

“A lot of people in Boy Scouts end up in technical fields or career paths that involve service to others, or being outdoors, and mining touches on both of those,” said Baker. “The idea of using multimillion-dollar pieces of heavy machinery to dig holes in the ground is a pretty exciting. I was set on mining engineering heading into Penn State, and I wanted a job where I would be outdoors at least some of the time. I didn’t really want a desk job.”

After graduating in May, Baker heads off to Vulcan Materials Co. in Nashville, Tennessee, where he’ll work for 18 months full time on surface and underground stone mining as an operations management trainee. He said he’ll learn all aspects of the mining process — including production, drilling, blasting, transportation and safety — before settling into a career with the company.

But the State College native will continue sharing his passion with Boy Scouts and continue helping Scouts attain mining badges.

“I think it’s worthwhile from an industry standpoint to keep it going,” said Baker. “Because that’s sort of the age where you can reach people.” 

Contacts: 
Last Updated February 24, 2017