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Service Project Takes Flight in Airport Security Realm

By Kyle Wingfield


Not many Scouts get to see the fruits of their Eagle Scout leadership service project at the world's busiest airport—on their way to an appearance on ABC's "Good Morning America."


But that's just what happened to Life Scout Josh Pfluger of Rockford, Illinois.


Josh, who lacks only two merit badges to complete the requirements for the Eagle Scout Award, built more than a dozen shoe-scanning devices that are now in use at Chicago's O'Hare International Airport. While the devices do not replace federal security equipment, they do help some weary travelers avoid having to remove their shoes while going through airport metal detectors.


"People like it," said 15-year-old Josh. "They don't like to take off their shoes, so they like that part of it."


The devices work in much the same way as the walk-through metal detector that seasoned travelers are used to. While waiting to pass through the airport's security checkpoint, the passenger steps up on a box with shoeprints painted on the top. Inside the box is a metal detector wand—the same kind that security guards wave up and down people who set off the walk-through metal detectors.


If your shoes set off the wand hanging inside Josh's box, chances are good that they will set off the walk-through detector—go ahead and take your shoes off in preparation for security. But if you pass that first test, you probably will not have to bother taking off your shoes and putting them back on once you pass through the security line.


Josh got the idea for the project from a neighbor, Rick Spencer, who works for the federal Transportation Security Administration at O'Hare. Spencer built the first device and took it to work.


"He showed his co-workers, and they liked it, and they wanted more of them. But he didn't have time on his hands to make more," Josh explained. "So he thought it would have been a good Eagle Scout project."


Spencer brought his prototype to Josh, who spent a few Saturdays in March and April improving on the idea and churning out the devices. Josh, along with his father, Dan Pfluger, and eight other members of Troop 37 of the Blackhawk Area Council, eventually made 17 devices—15 for O'Hare, one for the Rockford airport, and one for Josh to keep as a memento.


The story soon made its way to Fox News, WGN, The Associated Press, and several local newspapers. Josh said it was "cool to see it working and being used" on his way to New York for "Good Morning America," but he added that he is glad the attention has started to die down so he can concentrate on school—and those last two merit badges.