University Students Present Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge Midway Reports

2017 Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge

Eric Lanke headshot 2017



By Eric Lanke
NFPA President/CEO

During the last few weeks, I’ve had the pleasure of serving as a judge for the midway reports of the student teams competing in this year’s NFPA Fluid Power Vehicle Challenge. The Vehicle Challenge is a competitive workforce development program designed to support teams of undergraduate students as they develop a fluid-powered vehicle without the use of chains or belts. By exposing them to hands-on fluid power like this, we hope not only to add fluid power to their engineering skill-set, but also to interest and excite them about advancing a career in the fluid power industry.

The midway reports are an opportunity for the teams to showcase the development and progress of their projects, including their design concept and their proposed component selections. As a judge, my role was to assess this progress, especially with regard to the quality of the simulations and analyses they’ve run, their level of fluid power understanding, and the viability of the plan they’ve put in place to achieve their project goals and deliverables.

While I am one of the judges, several more knowledgeable fluid power engineers from the NFPA membership also serve as judges. A big thank you is owed to each of the volunteer Vehicle Challenge judges:

  • Jim Kaas, Iowa Fluid Power
  • Joseph Budden, Danfoss
  • Kevin Lingenfelter, Danfoss
  • Bill Hotchkiss, SunSource
  • Steve Zumbusch, Eaton
  • Chad Crowley, SunSource
  • Matt Loeffler, FORCE America
  • Eric Holland, FORCE America
  • Kent Sowatzke, Bimba
  • Aaron Darnell, Danfoss

Listening to these experienced engineers provide immediate feedback to the students truly demonstrates the educational value of this program. The students are designing and building a fluid power system – many for the first time. It is clear that they appreciate the insights and instructions from the judges, especially when they have forgotten to include essential elements like pressure relief valves or a safe way to drain pressurized fluid out of their accumulators. It’s truly fluid power education in action!

All of this is made possible through the generous support of our program sponsors, and through the Silver and Gold-level donors in the Pascal Society of the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation. As always, we encourage participation from our members through unique, engaging opportunities such as serving as volunteer judges. Please contact me at or (414) 778-3351 to learn how to get your company engaged.

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