Opportunities to Connect with Fluid Power-Educated Tech School Graduates

Eric Lanke headshot 2017


By Eric Lanke
NFPA President/CEO

In pursuing our mission of strengthening the fluid power industry, NFPA is focused on four key strategic objectives. Here’s a quick summary of the ways NFPA members can benefit from the programs associated with the fourth of those objectives. We call that objective Educated Workforce, and it’s where NFPA helps increase the number of technical college students educated in fluid power and connects them to careers in the fluid power industry.

To achieve this goal, we are building a series of programs that first introduce fluid power in middle school, then provide fluid power educational experiences in high school, then fluid power degrees and certificates in tech schools, and finally connections to jobs in the fluid power industry.


Fluid Power Action Challenge

Our middle school program is the Fluid Power Action Challenge. This is a competition that challenges middle school students to solve an engineering problem using fluid power. The students work in teams to design and build a fluid power mechanism, and then compete against other teams in a timed competition. Right now, there are two ways to get students involved in this program. One way is through the Fluid Power Action Challenge grants that we offer teachers to help bring Challenge materials into classrooms across the country. To date, these small grants have been given to teachers in 129 schools, who have, as a result, brought fluid power to more than 10,700 students.

But the second way is through the many Fluid Power Action Challenge events, hosted and organized by NFPA members and partners across the country. Since the program launched, 29 different organizations have hosted 106 different events. Together with the schools receiving grants, they have helped our program reach more than 21,000 students. To honor the role these organizations play in helping to grow this critical program, we recognize many of them as Action Challenge Champions. They have each made a commitment to conduct and grow an annual Fluid Power Action Challenge event in their local communities. Among our members, those champions include: Caterpillar, Daman Products Company, Deltrol Fluid Products, FORCE America, Husco, Hydrotech, Master Pneumatic, Micromatic, Parker Hannifin, Price Engineering, and Wojanis Supply Company.

To learn more about the Fluid Power Action Challenge, attend an upcoming event, or start one in your local community, visit https://nfpahub.com/fpc/action-challenge/


Fluid Power Robotics Challenge

Now, many of the middle school students who first learn about fluid power in our Action Challenge go on to participate in STEM education activities in high school. Among the most popular high school STEM competitions are FIRST Robotics and the National Robotics League. And, as part of our pathway into the fluid power industry, the NFPA Foundation is helping to ensure that these students use fluid power in their robot designs.

Our Fluid Power Robotics Challenge is a scholarship program that awards one merit-based scholarship each year to a high school student that uses fluid power in their robot. It is a significant award – $10,000 per year for up to four years, to be used for an engineering course of study at any U.S. tech school or university that holds an accredited status. Spencer Tiegs was our first recipient, and he is using his scholarship to study mechanical engineering at MSOE. Jacob Barnes was our second recipient, and he is using his scholarship to study electrical engineering at Cal Poly in San Luis Obispo. And Noah Santori is now our third recipient, and he is using his scholarship to purse a double major in mechanical and aerospace engineering at Case Western Reserve University.

These young men are three visible examples of the reach of this program – but they are just the tip of the iceberg. By offering such a large award, we are increasing our profile inside these high school programs, and now more than 2,600 FIRST and National Robotics League teams are using fluid power in their robot designs as a result. Our Foundation is helping to bring fluid power into these national programs, and we’re successfully introducing tens of thousands of high school students to our technology.

To learn more about the Fluid Power Robotic Challenge, visit https://nfpahub.com/fpc/robotics-challenge/


Fluid Power Scholarships

And to help those high school students continue their fluid power education after high school, the NFPA, in partnership with the International Fluid Power Society has started giving out $2,000 scholarships. IFPS provides an annual gift that helps us maintain a dedicated scholarship fund. In 2019 we awarded scholarships to 12 students, allowing each to continue their fluid power education at a number of fine universities and technical colleges. This now brings the total number of scholarships awarded under this program to 25.

To see a list of scholarship recipients, or to volunteer to serve on the scholarship review committee, visit https://www.nfpa.com/home/workforce/Fluid-Power-Technicians/Scholarships.htm


Fast Track to Fluid Power

Fast Track is a workforce development pathway that connects local technical colleges with industry partners and high school teachers. The network creates awareness and interest in fluid power and continues to direct students along a path that leads to careers in our industry. Four key programs are nested together in this structure:

  • The Fluid Power Action Challenge, first engages thousands of middle school students in learning about and having fun with fluid power. It raises awareness among students, educators, and parents. And industry partners serve as coaches and judges.
  • Then, Fast Track High Schools are each equipped with fluid power lab equipment and curriculum. They teach real-world fluid power and generate interest in fluid power careers. Industry partners visit the schools frequently to provide mentorship and career encouragement.
  • Then, a variety of Fluid Power Scholarships are offered to graduating high school students in order to pursue fluid power degrees or certificates at designated technical colleges. Industry partners serve on the scholarship review committee that makes funding decisions.
  • And finally, Fast Track Technical Colleges are schools with a 2-year degree program validated to teach core fluid power competencies. Industry partners provide on-going curriculum guidance and student internship opportunities.

That nested body of programs is what we call a Fast Track Hub. Now there are two Fast Track Hubs up and running. One centered on Waukesha County Technical College in southeastern Wisconsin and the second centered on Triton College in northeastern Illinois.

Moving forward it is our intention to launch many more Fast Track Hubs around the country. But with the new Regional Allocation Option included in our Pascal Society, where those Hubs get launched is entirely in your hands. For the first time this year, we asked our Silver and Gold-level donors to designate one of these eight regions of the country when making their contributions. 25% of each Silver donation and 50% of each Gold donation was then restricted for use only in the regions so designated. Six of our major donors took advantage of this option As these pools of money grow, we’ll work with the appropriate donors to launch new Fast Track Hubs in communities important to them and their businesses.

To learn more about Fast Track, or to make a contribution that may bring the program to your community, go here: https://www.nfpa.com/home/workforce/Fluid-Power-Technicians/FAMTEN.htm


Interested in Getting Involved?

As you can see, these programs demonstrate the ways NFPA fulfills its commitment to increasing the number of technical college students educated in fluid power and connecting them to careers in the fluid power industry. If you or a representative from your company would like to get engaged in any of these opportunities, please contact me at elanke@nfpa.com or (414) 778-3351.


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