Catching Up with the Robotics Challenge Scholarship Winners

Programs like the Fluid Power Robotics Challenge Scholarship are made possible in part by the generous support of industry volunteers as well as NFPA Education and Technology Foundation and Pascal Society donors. Support these efforts by making a donation.

The NFPA Foundation has awarded four $40,000 scholarships to university students through the Fluid Power Robotics Challenge Scholarship. The scholarship awards $40,000 ($10,000 per year for four years) to high school seniors who participate in a FIRST® Robotics or National Robotics League Competition Team and use fluid power in the competition robot. This program helps build awareness of fluid power benefits and careers among high school students.

By offering such a large scholarship, we are more recognizable inside these high school programs. More than 2,600 FIRST and National Robotics League teams are using fluid power in their robot designs as a result.

We asked each of the scholarship recipients to share what they have been working on, how is school going this semester, and what are they looking forward to next. Here is what they said:

Spencer Tiegs 2017 Robotics Challenge Scholarship Winner2017 Winner: Spencer Tiegs, senior at Milwaukee School of Engineering in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

“My classes are going very well so far this term and we are heading into week 10 of the Fall term, the last week before finals week. I am really enjoying the many interesting, technical classes I have been taking over the past year, and I am currently taking five mechanical engineering classes – Finite Element Methods, Computational Fluid Dynamics, Internal Combustion Engines, Automatic Control Systems, and I am doing a senior design project with four fellow students. Our senior design project is the design of a stressed-member transaxle for the hybrid drivetrain in the MSOE SAE Formula Hybrid vehicle and has been a great engineering challenge so far. I only have a few more technical electives to fill before I graduate in May, and one of these electives will be filled by a Fluid Power Circuits class next term, something I have obviously had an interest in for quite some time now. The classes I am currently taking are offered in a hybrid format due to COVID, about half in person and half online, though I believe all of the classes I take next term will be offered exclusively in an online format. The online format is more challenging from a personal accountability perspective, but I am still getting a lot out of my classes.

I am still very actively involved in the MSOE SAE Formula Hybrid Team club and after being the team’s Engineering Manager last year, I was elected the team’s Project Manager this year. The team is currently in the middle of troubleshooting some issues we found with the car last year and were unable to resolve before we had to leave campus in March, and we hope to test drive the vehicle next weekend. Due to COVID, we will unfortunately not be competing in an in-person competition in New Hampshire in spring and will instead be competing in virtual project management and vehicle design competitions. While it is unfortunate that we won’t be competing dynamically with the vehicle this year, we will still gain a lot of knowledge from the work we do this year, and I think the team will be in a very good position for next year.

As you may know, I worked an internship at Milwaukee Tool in Brookfield, Wisconsin on the NPD Hydraulic Trade Tools team this summer. This internship was a great experience, and I was able to build on my previous fluid power and manufacturing knowledge. I recently accepted a full-time position to return to this team after graduation, and I am already looking forward to starting in summer. I’m also happy to say that fluid power will be a large part of this position, and I would like to thank NFPA for helping to provide many of the opportunities that allowed me to get to this position.”


Jacob Barnes headshot2018 Winner: Jacob Barnes, junior at California Polytechnic State University in San Luis Obispo, California.

“Recently I’ve just been staying focused solely on my schoolwork. Between the extra work arising from the online format, and the barriers presented by COVID-19, I haven’t been able to participate in the clubs and activities that I enjoyed while on campus, such as Archery and Disc Golf. I have received some favorable grades on my recent midterms, and my hopes are high for my final grades this quarter. I was hoping to take fewer classes next quarter to lighten my workload and make it easier to excel in each class, while also possibly opening up more time for a job or internship, but the required classes were one unit short of full-time status, so I needed to add an additional class to my schedule, filling it once more. I am certain I will be able to take fewer classes the quarter after next unless something changes unexpectedly with the requirements or how many credits classes are worth, which I do not foresee happening. Other than that, there’s not a lot to report, it’s just business as (new) usual for me.”


Noah Santoni, 2019 NFPA Fluid Power Robotics Challenge Scholarship winner2019 Winner: Noah Santoni, sophomore at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio.

“This semester has been very different from my first year of school. I moved to an off-campus apartment as the university pulled campus housing a week before my move in date. After getting settled in, everything has been fine. I started working at the on-campus maker space which has been a great experience. I am learning so much about industrial manufacturing; I operate waterjets, CNC machines, mills lathes, and many other machines, helping users of the maker space with their projects. I unfortunately only have one class that is semi in-person, which means most of my class is online. It has been an interesting experience. I have still been working with the team machining parts for the brakes system of the car. I am also in the process of applying to internships for this summer. I am looking into large companies but also smaller startups. I am especially interested in robotics and want an internship where I am engaged and challenged. Overall, the semester has been great, and I am enjoying my course work and free time.”


Matthew Morley, 2020 Robotics Challenge Scholarship winner, headshot2020 Winner: Matthew Morley, freshman at Northeastern University in Boston, Massachusetts.

“I’ve been enjoying the fall semester studying Mechanical Engineering at Northeastern. My classes are being taught as a hybrid of online/in-person instruction, and I am able to attend about half of my classes in-person as well as meet in small groups to work on projects. I have kept myself busy this fall making new friends, mentoring my previous FRC team, and getting involved with clubs like AerospaceNU. I’ve worked on a number of technical projects for AerospaceNU so far: I’ve created a web-based ground station for displaying rocket telemetry, written flight software for our rocket’s parachute reefing system, developed an orientation estimator that combines gyro and magnetometer data, and designed custom PCBs for a novel parachute reefing system. We’re working towards a launch that should hopefully be happening sometime in the next couple of weeks, pending University approval. I also remain involved with the FRC software library WPILib, and the state-space controllers and physics simulation software I helped develop were recently released to beta teams.

This semester has gone by quickly, and finals are coming up in just over three weeks. I’m excited to continue developing my engineering skills through hands-on experiences like AeroNU and am looking forward to taking engineering classes like Statics and Material Science next semester.”


If you would like to be a judge for next year’s Robotics Challenge Scholarship applications, please contact Amy Zignego at or (414) 778-3376.

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