With the support of NFPA membership and education partners, the Fluid Power Action Challenge event introduced almost 2,000 students to fluid power technology in 2018 and its 10th year of operation.
The origin of the Action Challenge began with Steve Rogers of Mechanical Kits Ltd. In an interview with Steve, he discussed his background teaching high school science, math, and technology before moving on to work as a Senior Lecturer at the University of Nottingham and a Senior Curriculum Officer in the U.K. With his experience in education he realized that, “students learned and understood conceptual knowledge at a deeper, more meaningful level when they used their hands as well as their heads to learn.”
When his family moved to Toronto, he started his own business to “support STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) education in North America, an opportunity to continue to develop learning materials consistent with my hands-on philosophy.” Soon after, he was approached by the Canadian Fluid Power Association to develop a Fluid Power Challenge for middle school students in 2005. In 2008, NFPA’s President and CEO, Eric Lanke, became aware of the event and partnered with Steve Rogers and MSOE’s Tom Wanke to pilot a successful challenge in Milwaukee’s suburbs.
“NFPA’s mission is to strengthen the fluid power industry,” said Lanke. “Workforce development remains the most challenging issue that our member companies face. Accordingly, NFPA’s efforts drive programs that support a pathway that increases the number of educated fluid power technicians and engineers. Action Challenge events, organized and sponsored by our members and education partners, provide a platform for our country’s youth to learn about fluid power for the first time while developing an increasingly important skill set. Notably, it also allows for our member companies to connect directly and create long-lasting relationships with the school systems in their communities that produce the next generation of students with potential to elevate the fluid power industry.”
NFPA embraced the events and began engaging the membership in the activities. The Action Challenge requires students to design and build a fluid power device that solves an engineering problem. The scenario changes annually. Event organizers connect twice per year to discuss accomplishments, opportunities, and the modifications necessary to improve the next year’s program and provide the best resources for students.
“Two thousand students participated in fluid power challenges,” said Rogers. “Their experiences informed them of the fundamentals of fluid power through ‘hands-on’ learning and gave them insight into possible high school courses in STEM education as well as career possibilities in the fluid power industry. It’s a great project and owes a good deal of its success to its design, the many NFPA sponsors, and staff of NFPA.”