FORCE America Brings Together Community for Fluid Power Action Challenge

Programs like the Fluid Power Action Challenge 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.

FORCE America, a longtime NFPA member and Action Challenge host, held their Action Challenge at Alexandria Technical and Community College on Friday, May 7 with co-sponsors SMC, Braas, Eaton and Power Systems, LLC.  The challenge brought together eight teams consisting of 29 students from five area schools, some of which had multiple teams competing.

The competition started promptly at 9:00am and gave the student teams four hours to construct a hydraulic or pneumatically powered crane arm only using a portfolio they developed a few weeks earlier during their Workshop Day. Teachers are sequestered to another room, and no other assistance is given. Once the four hours of building time had elapsed, the real competition began.

Using their crane arms, the teams had two minutes to move a small, wooden cylinder from a starting position on a pre-set game board to a pyramid of platforms on the opposite side of the board. The higher they could place the cylinder and the more frequently they could complete the action, the more points they earned. To complete this seemingly simple action, a crane arm must extend, grip the cylinder, lift, rotate and drop the cylinder. The teams are not allowed to touch the cylinder with their hands, and any repairs made to their cranes had to be made within the two minute window.

While each team strived to win one or more of the award plaques at the end of the competition, the take-aways, for both the winners and the runners-up, was far more substantial. Students were given a crash course in important soft skills such as leadership, task delegation, troubleshooting and teamwork, all of which are expected of candidates entering the workforce. The last one, teamwork, is valued highly in this competition and the team that best works together is given a plaque commending their teamwork abilities.

At the close of the competition, two teams took home the bulk of the awards. Campbell-Tintah High School took home three awards, including Overall Champion, and Osakis Public School took home two awards, including Teamwork Champion.

As the students were building their kit, one of the teachers remarked about how the Action Challenge had the unintended, but highly encouraging, effect of bonding students from different grades together. He told us about how, after several years of not placing during the competition, a team of freshman had finally won, garnering not only the adulation of their immediate peers, but the senior class, who had competed several years earlier and were unable to bring home a trophy. Following that story, another teacher told us about how his team’s winning trophy sat directly underneath a trophy presented to the late Errol Mann, a graduate of Campbell-Tintah High School and a placekicker for the Oakland Raiders when they won Superbowl XI in 1976. Their stories stressed how important the community aspect of the Action Challenge is and, after a quiet year, it is exciting to see it bring people back together.

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