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Program lets scouts turn each other into ‘zombies’

CHARLESTON, West Virginia (AP) ― Pssssst. Hey, Scout. Tag! You’re a zombie!

Participants at the Boy Scouts of America’s National Jamboree are turning each other into virtual creepy crawlies by the thousands this week.

It’s part of an educational game Virginia Tech researchers designed to show how disease spreads.

The Virus Tracker combines technology with the age-old game of tag. At the 10-day Jamboree, scouts can earn points by “infecting” other players through a “virus” on bar-coded labels that are attached to their scout IDs. Codes can be activated at scanning stations or by smartphones that have downloaded the Virus Tracker app. Individuals and troops that amass the most points each day win.

The goal is to stay human.

Colin Slavin, 15, whose scout troop is based in Germantown Hills, Illinois, called the chance to turn other scouts into zombies “really cool.”

Players can sign up when they visit the Virginia Bioinformatics Institute’s tent at The Cloud, a technology area at the Jamboree where scouts also learn about robotics, engineering, computer science and mobile communications.

Slavin heard about the virus program from other scouts and had to try it for himself Thursday.

After filling out a brief computer survey, he tagged four other people before his brief rampage was stopped by an approaching thunderstorm, which forced officials to shut down the system.

“It was real easy,” Slavin said. “It’s like, ‘Yep, you’re infected. I got you. I win.’ It’s just like a large, incredibly different (game of) tag.”

Eagle scout Seth Hopkins, 18, from the Northern Star Council based in St. Paul, Minnesota, said the Virus Track was a great way to meet new friends. He handed out about a dozen labels Friday and hopes to infect a couple dozen more campers before he leaves.