Erika Bonnett, science extension specialist from the Purdue 4-H Youth Development Program, and Jose Garcia, assistant professor from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute, joined efforts to bring NFPA’s Fluid Power Challenge to Indiana’s 4-H communities during the inaugural 4-H Fluid Power Challenge. The challenge provided local 6-8th graders an opportunity to learn about hydraulics, fluid power and other STEM skills. The event, sponsored by The Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP), ultimately brought the Challenge into the public eye when two teams were also selected to demonstrate their designs and share their experience at the Indiana Legislature Rural Caucus at the Indiana State Fair. This not only brought attention to the Fluid Power Challenge, but also brought 4-H, STEM education and youth interest in fluid power in front of policymakers.
4-H had a workshop day and a challenge day. On workshop day, nine teams from across Indiana came to Purdue’s campus for a day-long introduction to fluid power. The students then created a pre-designed lifting device and were accompanied by graduate and undergraduate students from the Purdue Polytechnic Institute to learn the basic skills they would use to create their challenge devices. Each team designed a fluid power robot from a standard kit using syringes with either air or water to make their devices pick up and move an object. This gave them each a chance to create a design, solve problems, work as a team and learn about the engineering design process.
Five weeks later, the teams assembled back at Purdue University for the first 4-H Fluid Power Challenge Competition, where they were judged by industry professionals from Caterpillar, Wabash National, and professors from Purdue University and Universidad Tecnológica de Queretaro. They were awarded points on various categories such as portfolio, teamwork, design, challenge completion and overall winner.
The partnership between the NFPA, the CCEFP, Purdue Polytechnic Institute and the 4-H Youth Development Program gave a unique opportunity to reach young students throughout the state of Indiana in a non-formal education setting while encouraging an interest in STEM. In a survey of students involved, 96% reported that they liked to see how things are made or invented, 96% said they felt that they could explain why things happen in an experiment, 86% liked science and 75% would like to have a job related to science.
National Fluid Power Association
Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power
Purdue Polytechnic Institute
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