Leyden High School Gets Creative with Fluid Power Action Challenge Kits

The Fluid Power Action Challenge was developed for middle school students to increase awareness of fluid power technology and to promote critical thinking, teamwork and problem-solving skills. This fun and engaging event allows students to learn the engineering design process and see their fluid power machines come to life when they meet to compete against their peers. The Action Challenge provides a bridge from the classroom to the community by teaching students about the technology and its applications, which creates needed visibility in the minds of tomorrow’s workforce so they can consider fluid power as a career path.

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.


Fluid Power Action ChallengeIn response to the continued COVID-19 pandemic, students at Leyden High School in Franklin Park, Illinois are learning and working from home. Despite not regularly having access to traditional classrooms, the students in instructor Brian Burcham’s Pre-Engineering class lacked nothing in terms of innovation and creativity when presented with their Fluid Power Action Challenge kits in late January. Lynn Beyer, NFPA’s Vice President of Workforce Development Programs and I were invited to virtually sit in as the class presented their finished products. The kits, built according to instruction, result in a hydraulically powered crane that is operated using syringes filled with enough liquid to make the crane rotate, lift and operate the claw.

While some students more closely adhered to the original design, other students chose to experiment with the materials and built different constructs. From the crane kit, students built the following hydraulic-powered machines:

  • Riser for a computer monitor
  • Can crusher
  • Mechanical arm
  • Platform riser
  • Crushing press

The students who opted to assemble the traditional crane design also showed no shortage of originality in their crane builds. Every crane was significantly different than the last. One featured counterweights, one was attached to its base at a significant angle to account for the weight of the crane’s arm, and one was built in such a way that required two operators to rotate, extend and lift the arm.

As it became more apparent that schools would be functioning remotely for a significant amount of time, NFPA worked to develop different versions of the Fluid Power Action Challenge so that teachers could conduct the challenge in-school, totally virtually, or a hybrid of the two, depending on their school’s current policies regarding COVID-19. If you would like to participate, or know someone who would, here is the website for more information.  If you have questions, please direct them to Joe Zwier. Grants (worth up to $500.00) are available to middle and high schools who are seeking financial assistance to underwrite the cost of the kits and materials. The rules and application can be found here.