Middle Schools Take First at NFPC 2016

Students from Marlowe Middle School and Heineman Middle School split first place for their engineering designs at the National Fluid Power Challenge held at Harper College in October.
The Challenge is an engineering design competition in which students must solve an engineering problem using fluid power. This year’s design had to be capable of picking up a small, weighted wooden object from a designated pick-up area and move it up and in onto one of two drop off shelves.
“The challenge of this activity is obvious from the start when students are given the design parameters, a box of wood and a set of tools and four weeks to design and build a prototype that they will have to build from scratch on the day of the challenge,” said Lori Knasiak, who teaches 8th grade science at Marlowe and coached the Marlowe team at the Challenge. “The successful completion of this challenge at the level that earned them the trophy shows that our students are well-equipped for success in a 21st century job market.”
Students earn points that increase with the difficulty level of the drop off zone. Teams are evaluated on their written portfolio, teamwork, interview questions, and design by a panel of professional engineers from fluid power manufacturers in the Chicago and Milwaukee areas.
Design criteria include most economical use of materials, most efficient machine, best functioning machine, and innovative design.
One team from Marlowe and two teams from Heineman were pitted against 21 others in the area. Students worked in teams of four.

The winning Marlowe team included:

  • Jacob Richardson
  • Brandon Tracey
  • Mateo Robles
  • Alex Crapeau
The winning Heineman team included:

  • Molly Baker
  • Jacob Fiandalo
  • Sean McCamant
  • Owen Cravens

NPFC Students in Action

“The only background information they are given is done on the first day of the challenge, where they attend a workshop that teaches them how to build simple fluid powered machines. They then go back to their schools and use that information and their imaginations to create their prototypes,” said John Dvorak, a 7th grade science teacher at Heineman who coached the HMS team. “We do not tell them what to do. This is a very ‘student-directed’ project.”

Dvorak noted that the Huntley 158 teams faced an added challenge in being among the few teams that worked on their projects solely outside the normal school day. Many of the other teams worked on the Challenge as part of their school curriculum.
Participants not only enjoyed taking part in the Challenge, but also will benefit from the hands-on, project-based approach as they head into higher levels of learning and, ultimately, careers.
“Students who compete in this event get a real-world glimpse at what it takes to be an engineer,” Knasiak said.
“The students who participate in the challenge enjoy working with their hands, creating something functional to complete a task, and working collaboratively with others,” Dvorak said. “There is a great satisfaction in learning how to do something challenging and successfully complete a task.”