Fluid Power Journal

Hydraulics and Pneumatics Initiatives with the Boy Scouts of America


My family is really involved in the Boy Scouts of America (BSA). My son Austin recently received the rank of Eagle Scout, and he and I received the Triple Crown Award (Philmont, Northern Tier, Sea Base, and Summit attendees).

If you’re involved with the Boy Scouts of America with your son or daughter, I’m sure you share my appreciation for the special moments and the support of other leaders who help guide our sons and daughters in their maturation process to always do their best and do the right thing.

Personally, I can’t say enough about the program and the leadership skills, morals, and ultimately, the character traits it has instilled in our son.

The International Fluid Power Society’s Education Committee has spent several years on our dream with the Hydraulics and Pneumatics Subcommittee developing a fluid power merit badge. We’ve been developing the idea, completing many drafts of the merit badge booklet, researching kits, developing patches, selecting images, running experimental programs, refining things, preparing our submission, etc.

All of this work led to meetings with the national office of the Boy Scouts of America in Irving, Tex., over the last few years to discuss the potential of this merit badge. These trips to the national office have been awe-inspiring, especially seeing the national museum adorned with original Norman Rockwell and Joseph Csatari artwork, touring the national office with over 400 employees, and meeting with several key staff on the innovations team.

We were warmly met and informed of other ways we could get the hydraulics and pneumatics basic STEM principles of Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics into other facets of the Cub Scout, Boy Scout, and Venturing programs.

We were given the green light to run with our experimental program around the country to see if there was a high interest for the merit badge. Thank you so much to those who ran experimental programs, the scouts who participated, and the feedback they provided. This gave us the opportunity to tweak and improve what we had put together to make sure that it is a fun, challenging, and relevant experience for the scouts. The purpose of merit badges is to provide opportunities for learning, personal growth, physical development, career awareness, citizenship, and life skills.

One of the requirements for the hydraulics and pneumatics merit badge involves a hands-on portion. The scout has to build, operate, and answer questions about a kit from balsa wood that creates a platform lift, scissor lift, cherry picker, or excavator along with a robotic arm to demonstrate the use of hydraulics and pneumatics with syringes as the mechanical linear actuators.


The formal application for the Hydraulics and Pneumatics Merit Badge was presented to the Boy Scouts of America National Office last September. BSA will be sending out a youth interest survey in the first quarter of 2015 to assess whether or not to move forward with the merit badge. This survey will be sent to all scouts who have signed up for the Scouting Research Panel.

The committee is currently working on a short video for promoting the merit badge and is considering changing the name from “Hydraulics and Pneumatics Merit Badge” to “Fluid Power Merit Badge” based on feedback from BSA.
I hope you’re as excited as I am about this opportunity. I have to say this is one of the most exciting things for our industry that I have ever seen. Please consider helping us in this important endeavor for the present and future of our industry, and stay tuned for updates!


  1. If you would like to provide comments or feedback, e-mail meritbadge@ifps.org. Your comments will be delivered to the subcommittee.
  2. We urge every parent involved in our industry to encourage every Boy Scout they know to register for the Scouting Research Panel by visiting www.scouting.org/about/research/ResearchPanel.aspx. When the interest survey is sent out in Spring 2015, vote Yes!

Committee Chairs: Paul Prass, Fluid Power Journal; Randall Smith, CFPHS, Northrop Grumman Corp.

Committee Members: Tom Blansett, CFPAI, Behco-MRM, Inc; Ken Dulinski, CFPAI, Macomb Community College; Scott Gower, CFPS, Gulf Controls Co., Inc.; Dean Houdeshell, PE, CFPAI/AJPP, Danfoss; Mark Perry, CFPHS, Fitzsimmons Hydraulics, Inc.; Justin Sergeant, CFPS, Seven Star Industries; Jimmy Simpson, CFPAI, AJPP, Nusim Associates; Kent Sowatzke, Bimba Manufacturing; Marti Wendel, CFPS, CFPE; Curtiss-Wright Sprague Products; Steve Rogers, Mechanical Kits Ltd.; Lynn Beyer, NFPA

ABOUT THE AUTHOR: After graduating from Purdue University in the Mechanical Engineering field, Paul Prass worked at Rexroth for 13 years; was heavily involved on the board of directors and various committees for NFPA, FPEF, and the IFPS; became a Certified Fluid Power Specialist upon its release; served as the executive director of IFPS and FPDA; became a Certified Association Executive; and founded the Fluid Power Journal for the IFPS with his wife, Lisa, in 1994. Paul and Lisa continue to publish Fluid Power Journal, which just celebrated 20 years of serving the fluid power industry.

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One thought on “Hydraulics and Pneumatics Initiatives with the Boy Scouts of America”

  1. Greg Fender says:

    I had the opportunity to run one of the experimental programs in Virginia last March. It is a great program that they put together. The machine model kits were a big hit and a lot of fun. Hopefully the BSA research panel will vote the new merit badge into place. I am an Eagle Scout and a Fluid Power Engineer, and I am currently involved in Scouting with my son. One of the great things about Scouting is that it introduces many subjects, careers, and hobbies to the Scouts.

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