New Faces in Academic Fluid Power – Richard Malak

Eric Lanke NFPA CEO


By Eric Lanke

[dropcap]I[/dropcap]’ve written before about the Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power (CCEFP)—the network of fluid power research laboratories, academic faculty, graduate and undergraduate students at seven universities—that is making a difference when it comes to preparing a better educated workforce for the fluid power industry. The CCEFP has created a 500% increase in the number of fluid power focused advanced degrees awarded in the United States, with almost half of its graduates going on to work in the fluid power industry. Some CCEFP graduates decide to stay in academia—and that’s a good thing, because they bring an interest and focus on fluid power to new institutions around the United States and around the world.

Richard Malak is one of those graduates, a former graduate research student at the Georgia Institute of Technology and now an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering at Texas A&M University.

When I asked Rich about how he is helping to grow fluid power at his new institution, he said:

rm“Some semesters I teach more than 150 undergraduates. Other semesters I’m working with 25 graduate students. In both situations, I have used fluid power examples when teaching systems modeling and design concepts, such as the notion of interfaces between components and component selection processes. Fluid power components have well defined interfaces—points at which energy is exchanged, such as through the working fluid and through the mechanical connections—which make them good to work with in these contexts.

“Another way I use fluid power in my teaching is to highlight the concept of functionality in design and the principle of not becoming fixated on a particular design solution. For example, most people think of batteries when discussing hybrid vehicles. I use the example of hybrid hydraulic technology to illustrate that it often is possible to achieve a desired functionality (capture, store and supply energy) with different technologies.”

Rich is just one of the many new faces in academic fluid power who is helping to bring hydraulics and pneumatics to a new generation of students.

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