Area students receive engineering experience

Submitted photo. Students from Richard Ira Jones Middle School won Best Design in the NFPA Fluid Power Challenge held at Joliet Junior College. Pictured are: [L-R] Jonathan Stell, Sam Schennum, Cameron Murphy, Lyle Gaudiano and teacher Sarah Hill.

Submitted photo.
Students from Richard Ira Jones Middle School won Best Design in the NFPA Fluid Power Challenge held at Joliet Junior College. Pictured are: [L-R] Jonathan Stell, Sam Schennum, Cameron Murphy, Lyle Gaudiano and teacher Sarah Hill.

For the second straight year, Joliet Junior College along with corporate sponsor Caterpillar, Inc. partnered to host the National Fluid Power Association’s (NFPA) Fluid Power Challenge. Ten local middle schools participated in the event at Joliet Junior College; including Aux Sable, Heritage Grove and Richard Ira Jones middle schools in Plainfield’s District 202.

The Fluid Power Challenge provided eighth grade students with an opportunity to solve a real-life engineering program by using fluid power. Students worked together with their   classmates, in teams of four, to design and build a fluid power mechanism.

The challenge consisted of two segments: Workshop Day and Challenge Day. During the workshop day, which was held in mid-September, engineers from Caterpillar Inc. introduced the students to fluid power. The students built a pneumatic lifter and learned about the skills needed to be successful on competition day. At the conclusion of Workshop Day, students took their kits, tools and supplies back to their schools. They worked over the next several weeks with their respective teams to build and test a prototype, develop a portfolio and prepare for Challenge Day.

Teams returned to JJC on Nov. 13 for Challenge Day. Students had to use their designs and tool kits to recreate the fluid power mechanisms.

During the timed competition, students had to pick up weighted objects and place them on a platform. Teams were graded in areas such as total points, portfolio ideas, design and teamwork.

Richard Ira Jones’ Team 1 took home best design; and Aux Sable’s Team 3 took first for best mahcine performance.

Submitted photo. Students from Aux Sable Middle School won Best Machine Performance in the NFPA Fluid Power Challenge held at Joliet Junior College. Pictured are: teacher Emily Rousonelos, Allison Miller, Michaelina Principe, Aiden Evans, Ethan Morris and teacher Yoshakia Oden.

Submitted photo.
Students from Aux Sable Middle School won Best Machine Performance in the NFPA Fluid Power Challenge held at Joliet Junior College. Pictured are: teacher Emily Rousonelos, Allison Miller, Michaelina Principe, Aiden Evans, Ethan Morris and teacher Yoshakia Oden.

Caterpillar Inc.’s Engineering Technical Steward, Frank Breier, said, “One of the things that Caterpillar is very interested in is the S.T.E.M. program and getting students more involved in Science, Technology, Engineering and Math. The NFPA Challenge is a great hands-on experience for students in our local area.”

As a new component this year, engineers from Caterpillar, Inc. went to each school and met with teams prior to the competition. The engineers were able to provide students with valuable knowledge and expertise before the competition day.

Teachers and students were once again excited about the opportunity to participate in the Fluid Power Challenge. This experience provided a hands-on learning environment that emphasized the areas of Science, Technology, Engineering and Mathematics.

Eighth grader Cameron Murphy from Richard Ira Jones Middle School said, “I learned some important things about teamwork and how to use time wisely. And I also learned what fluid power really is. I didn’t know what that was before this at all.”

Another encouraging sign was the increased number of female students that participated compared to last year’s event. In fact, an all-girls team from Crone Middle School in Naperville actually won the 2015 Overall Champion award.

Molly Trafton, eighth grade science teacher at Heritage Grove Middle School, said, “I think that this was a great experience to get some of our girls involved. Having a girl on the team who was a leader was really positive for the rest of our students.

She added, “Coming from my own perspective and being a woman who teaches science, I think it’s really great that we’re trying to get more girls involved at a younger age to show them they can do it and that science is for everybody.”

Heritage Grove Middle School student Jennifer Gaw added, “What I liked best about the competition was that everything was hands-on and we didn’t have anybody helping us.”

The NFPA started the Fluid Power Challenge about seven years ago with the intention of introducing middle school students to fluid power technology.

For more information about the Fluid Power Challenge, visit www.nfpa.com. If your company is interested in partnership opportunities with upcoming JJC programs, contact Amy Murphy at amurphy@jjc.edu or visitwww.trainingupdate.org.

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