Back in 2008, just three middle school teams competed in the first ever NFPA Fluid Power Challenge, an event aimed at challenging eighth grade students to solve an engineering problem using fluid power. Today, hundreds of students participate in these regional events throughout the country, with new ones being added regularly.
In the last week alone, I learned about two new Challenges, one being at Joliet Junior College in Illinois back in November, with the next one slated for Macomb Community College in Warren, Mich. The students will learn about technology and the challenges they must face during a workshop day at Macomb on February 6, with the final Challenge competition day occurring during the NFPA Regional Meeting on March 26.
More than 120 students from the advanced science and mathematics programs within the Macomb Intermediate School districts have registered for this inaugural challenge. The students will be comprise the 40 teams that will eventually compete in the planning, design, build and operating of fluid power mechanisms and compete in a timed competition.
Dave Hone, president of Master Pneumatic Inc., has been trying to bring the Challenge to students in Michigan for years, and is looking for support from all manufacturers, distributors, and suppliers in the fluid power industry to help make the event a success. Support can come in the form of monetary donations or by participating as a judge or support personnel at the event.
I had an opportunity to attend one of the more established Challenges a few years ago. This one, sponsored by Daman Products Co. in Mishawaka, Ind., featured 13 teams and was truly an enjoyable time. It reminded me of my high school days, when we would have to engineer a device (a bridge manufactured from toothpicks that had to hold a minimum weight; a car made only from index cards, rubber bands, and paper clips; and more) in a competitive atmosphere.
This is truly where you can engage kids in learning about science and engineering careers and, more specifically, teach them about fluid power, something they may not learn about anywhere else in their school career. Even students that never thought they liked science enjoyed themselves. This is why I encourage others to get involved on any level they can.
Visit the NFPA Foundation to learn more about the event and to donate time or money. All members of the fluid power industry should be interested in seeing this Challenge grow. It may not be on par with the FIRST Robotics competition, but it’s fun and necessary for our industry’s future.
To learn more, visit www.nfpafoundation.org.