Mentors Make the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge a Success

Byline: Mary Pluta

Programs like the Fluid Power Vehicle 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. 

The NFPA Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge is an opportunity for students to take what they’ve learned in the classroom and apply it to real-world engineering in a competitive setting. The program combines two technology platforms that are not normally associated with one another—human-powered vehicles and fluid power. By combining this unlikely pair, the Vehicle Challenge creates an environment that results in uncommon connections and breakthroughs while supporting learning and the growth of fluid power industry knowledge. 

One of the keys to the success of the Vehicle Challenge Program is the support provided to each team by their industry mentor. This year, the twenty-three teams met with their mentors remotely or in-person at least four times throughout the school year. One common theme we heard from students this year was that the mentor meetings were so valuable, they should have done more of them. Mentors in the Vehicle Challenge Program provide much needed technical assistance and a glimpse into the fluid power industry. Some teams start the Vehicle Challenge program with little knowledge of how to create a hydraulic circuit or construct a vehicle, for example. Mentors provide the critical know-how that the teams need to be successful.

The mentors provide more than technical expertise. They encourage students to think of innovative solutions, coach them on presentation skills, and remind them of the real-world supply chain problems. One of the teams participating in the Vehicle Challenge said this about their mentor, “Our mentors contributed valuable insights throughout the various stages of design and fabrication. Their experience, enthusiasm, and commitment to the project made a huge impact in our ability to create a competition-ready vehicle.”

Mentors are invited to participate in the fall Networking Mixer and have an inside track on recruitment as they work with these talented and creative engineering students. They also have the opportunity to attend the final competitions and serve as judges.

The opportunity to mentor a team and/or judge the Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge is reserved for Pascal donors. For more information, please contact Mary Pluta at

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