Forget about Hooked On Phonics. What today’s students really need is to get Hooked On Hydraulics.
At least, that’s the point of a new education initiative from the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) and the Society of Manufacturing Engineers Education Foundation. Last week, the two organizations announced they would team up to develop programs that teach fluid power concepts to middle- and high-school science students.
According to Eric Lanke, NFPA’s executive director, the fluid power curriculum will debut as early as Summer 2009, initially as part of the Gateway Academies run by the SME and Project Lead The Way. In the long term, the NFPA and SME plan to bring fluid power into other youth-based engineering programs as well as science classes during the school year. Lanke reports that the NFPA is also interested in summer camps that focus solely on promising fluid power applications–such as hydraulic hybrid vehicles.
So why all the effort to reach younger students? Lanke makes a case that fluid power knowledge amongst many working engineers isn’t what it should be, and he puts some of the blame on an engineering curriculum that gives hydraulics and pneumatics short shrift. “Engineering schools that teach fluid power at the early stage of the bachelor-level degree are the rare exceptions,” he says, noting that schools often require only “a chapter or two” in the third and fourth years.
Lanke hopes that an early introduction to hydraulics and pneumatics will make these technologies more attractive to science-minded students, especially at a time when many are being drawn to electronics and computers. “What we’re trying to do is get fluid power concepts on the radar screens of engineers before they even know they want to be engineers,” he says.