The Nova And Supernova Awards: What A Scout Should Know

There are so many fun and educational aspects of Cub Scouting, and one of them is earning awards for your hard work! In this article, we’ll be going in-depth on one of the coolest awards out there: the Nova Award. This award is centered around science, and there are 11 different Nova Awards that Cub Scouts can earn!

What is the Cub Scout Nova Award? The Nova Award encourages Cub Scouts to engage in STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) activities. To earn a Nova Award, a Cub must complete hands-on experiments and learning adventures designed to spark interest and develop knowledge in STEM fields.

PS. This article is a guest post collaboration with Eagle Scout and AOL recipient, Jonathan K🙂

To earn the Nova Award, you’ll get to take part in fun activities and learn about the fascinating world around you. But remember, it’s not just about the award, but what you learn along the way! Let’s get started and break down the different Nova Awards, how you can earn them, and what makes this such a cool Cub Scout achievement. 

Helpful Link: Check out our article to learn about other awesome Cub Scout awards!

What Is a Nova Award for Cub Scouts?

It’s important to note that the Nova Award actually includes several different awards! The BSA created the Nova program to help get Scouts more interested in STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics). While there are 11 Nova awards in total, Cubs can choose to earn just one, or as many as they’d like! They’ll receive an additional pin for their uniform for each Nova award earned. :D

What Are the Nova Award Types and Their Requirements?

By completing the requirements for any one of the 11 Nova awards, you’ll get the Nova patch. Then, you can work on as many of the others as you want and earn additional pi pins! The requirements to earn Nova awards include topics like watching an hour of a scientific show or investigating questions such as why rockets have fins.

Completing a Nova award is generally seen as a bit more work than finishing an adventure for a Cub Scout rank. However, if you’re a Cub Scout who’s already passionate about science, technology, engineering, or math, these awards might be a blast to work on! Let’s check out the different Nova Award types and their requirements below: 

Science Nova Awards
Science Everywhere (Everyday Science)Requirements
Down and Dirty (Earth Science)Requirements
Nova Wild (Animal Science)Requirements
Up and Away (Water Science)Requirements
Uncovering the Past (Archaeology) Requirements 
Technology Nova Awards
Tech Talk (Impact of Technology)Requirements
Cub Scouts Can Code (Computers)Requirements
Engineering Nova Awards
Swing! (Simple Machines)Requirements
Out of this World! (Space Exploration) Requirements 
Mathematics Nova Awards
1-2-3-Go! (Everyday Math)Requirements 
Fearful Symmetry (Everyday Symmetry)Requirements

What Does the Cub Scout Nova Awards Stand for?

Each section of the Nova Award represents a scientific discipline. For instance, there are topics like Everyday Science, Computers, and Simple Math. The design of the Nova Award is based on the logo for NASA and represents space and exploration. That makes sense when you think about how many former Scouts have gone on to become astronauts

After you earn the main Nova patch, each Nova Award is represented by a Pi pin, shown to the right. Pi (pronounced “pie,” just like the desert 😛 ) is a math term for the distance around a circle (circumference) divided by the distance across it (diameter). In numerical terms, pi is 3.14159.

You can have up to 10 of the Pi pins on your uniform, which are placed first on the North, South, East, and West sections of your Nova Award. After that, any other Pi pins earned can be placed on whatever remaining Nova Award corners you’d like! All Pi pins look alike but represent the different STEM topics covered in each Nova Award.

What Is STEM in Scouting?

I keep mentioning STEM, which is an acronym for Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics. That may sound a lot like school and studying, but Scouting makes it fun! Whether you like learning about the Earth, computers, math, or molecules, STEM has something for you!

Want to hear about a cool example? This video (2:10) gives a great overview of how some Cub Scouts earned the Down and Dirty Nova Award: by making their own volcano!

By the way, learning about STEM goes beyond the Nova Award — it can help you with different parts of Scouting! For example, winning the Pinewood Derby is about engineering and mathematics, while camping is more fun when you know the different types of plants and trees around you!

Who Can Earn the Nova Award?

The Nova Award can be earned by Cub Scouts, BSA Scouts, and Venture Crew. Lions and Tigers can not earn the Nova Award, but a Nova Award can be earned while working toward the Wolf rank, or any Cub Scouting ranks thereafter.

The Nova Award requirements are different for each level of Scouting (Cub Scouts, BSA Scouts, and Venture). This means the Nova patch can be earned a total of three times during your Scouting career! This is also true for the pi pins, which do not carry over from previous levels. 

What Is the Cub Scout Supernova Award and How Do You Earn It?

The Supernova Award is a bigger challenge than the Nova Award, requiring you to work one-on-one with an approved Supernova Mentor for up to a year! The work is worth it, because the Supernova Award is recognized as the highest STEM-related achievement for Scouts. In fact, each year only a few Scouts earn the Supernova award! 

Helpful Links: Interested in the Supernova Award? Check out the requirements for the Wolf and Bear Supernova Award and for the Webelos Supernova Award!

What Does the Nova Award Patch Look Like and Where Does It Go?

The Nova Award Patch can be hung on the right pocket of the Cub Scout uniform. Pi pins fit perfectly along the blue points of the patch! Unlike other patches, the Nova Award is considered a temporary patch and does not have a designated spot directly on the uniform. 

A Supernova Award is a medal, and should be worn around the neck, underneath the neckerchief. 

Tips for Earning a Cub Scout Nova and Supernova Award 

  • Pick and choose topics that interest you – This is worth repeating because if you go for a Nova Award in a topic that isn’t fun and exciting to you, it will be much harder to earn! Of course, it’s great to challenge yourself — but remember that you don’t need all of them.
  • Live demonstrations count – Most of the requirements include watching an instructional video or documentary, but you can also watch a live demonstration. For example, while doing work for a school science fair, I went to a local army base and watched a demonstration on how dams work! 🙂
  • One Nova Award at a time – It can be tempting to work on a few Nova Awards at once, but it this ends up being harder. Only work towards one at a time, giving it your full attention, and move on to your next only after your mentor/counselor says it’s okay! 
  • Contact your council for an approved mentor or counselor – Use the council locator for the contact information you need, but only do so after talking to your parents and den leader! 
  • Long-distance counseling is allowed – Some councils and packs may not have a local expert, and instead, you can talk to a Nova Awards counselor online! If you want to earn a Nova Award and there’s no one available, tell your den leader and they might be able to help.

What Is a Cub Scout Nova Award Counselor? 

To earn a Nova Award, you work one-on-one (or in a small group) with a Nova Award counselor. The counselor is an adult volunteer who’s been approved by the local council to help with STEM activities. These counselors don’t have to be experts in every STEM field. 

If you’re going for the Supernova Award, you’ll have to work with an approved, expert Supernova counselor! The process for these awards takes a lot of time and energy, so you’ll work very closely with your counselor. It’s recommended that Scouts earn at least two Nova Awards before working towards the Supernova.

Can a Parent Be a Cub Scout Nova Award Counselor?

Yes, a parent can be a Cub Scout Nova Award counselor, although there are strict requirements. An interested parent must go through training and be approved by the local council. The requirements to become a Nova Award counselor are available here at Nova Award counselors must be at least 21 years old. 

For the Supernova Awards, a parent can also serve as the counselor, but they can’t work just with their own child! Any parent approved at this level can work with a group of Scouts that includes their child, but working one-on-one with their own child is not allowed.

Conclusion – Every Cub Scout Should Go for a Nova Award! 

You can go through your entire Scouting career, from a Cub Scout Lion to a BSA Eagle Scout, without earning a single Nova Award… but you’d be missing out! What you learn for any Nova Award can make you a better Scout, give you more knowledge about the world, and even help in school. Best of all, earning a Nova Award is just plain fun!

Besides, there’s something cool about having an award that few other Cubs in your pack have. An individual award lets you stand out from the rest of the pack and marks your dedication towards Scouting! There are so many opportunities available through Scouting, and the Nova Award is one that no Scout should let pass them by. 😀 

Thanks so much for dropping by, and for being an awesome part of Cub Scouting! If you enjoyed learning about how to earn the Nova Award, I’d highly recommend also checking out any of these other articles if they spark your interest:

That’s all for now! I hope you seriously consider earning a Nova Award of your own, because it could be a lot of fun and learning. Until next time, I’m wishing you and your pack nothing but the best!


I'm constantly writing new content because I believe in Scouts like you! Thanks so much for reading, and for making our world a better place. Until next time, I'm wishing you all the best on your journey to Eagle and beyond!

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