Design Engineering

You can help promote technology careers in Canada

By John Bachmann, former Chairman the Canadian Fluid Power Association   

Fluid Power CFPA

Get the word out about the CFPA’s National Fluid Power Challenge to entice young minds to embrace STEM careers.

CFPA’s Fluid Power Challenge’s goal is to get grade 8 students excited about applying fluid power technology to build a practical device and, in the process, consider pursuing further studies or a career in technology after high school.

CFPA Challenge

This year, teams of grade 8 students from across Canada will compete in the CFPA’s National Fluid Power Challenge by creating simple fluid power driven machines designed to perform a specific task.

In particular, we want the students involved to select the types of science and math courses in their high school program of studies that are perquisites for post-secondary studies in technology. Unfortunately, many do not and come to regret their premature decision. Working at the Grade 8 level also makes sense because the science and technology courses at this grade level in most provinces include a unit on “fluids.”

The CFPA held its first annual challenge in Toronto in 2001 and has been involved in similar events in Edmonton and, just this year, in Winnipeg. However, these challenges, which involve bringing students from multiple schools together to one location, are relatively expensive and require a lot of work on the part of the schools, local sponsors and the CFPA. As we investigated how to deliver the benefits of the challenge to more students across the country, we realized we needed to find a format that was more cost-effective and less time-consuming.

Working with Steve Rogers of Mechanical Kits, the facilitator of our Canadian challenges, the CFPA has developed a “National Challenge” format that will allow a teacher in Fort McMurray or St. John’s to take a whole class, divided into four or five-student teams, through the challenge process as part of teaching the “fluids” unit.


This school-based event will be part of the Grade 8 science course and start with “workshop” lessons which reinforce the students’ knowledge of fluid power concepts. It will also introduce them to the tools and materials they will use and give them some practice building simple fluid power devices.

Next, each team will focus on designing, building, testing, fine-tuning and documenting the design of a device intended to solve the current year’s National Challenge Scenario, (i.e. the problem to be solved). Based on an evaluation of the work done for this scenario, the teacher will select a team of four or five students that will proceed to participate in the national competition.

On the Challenge Day, which takes place within a few weeks of the end of the “workshop” lessons, the selected team, with a fresh set of building materials and their portfolio to work from, has three hours to build, test and refine their device. Then, the team demonstrates their device during a two-minute period that is recorded (and, hopefully, takes place in front of as large an audience as possible at the school).

Still images, the demonstration video and the design portfolio are submitted to a national panel of judges by a specified deadline date for evaluation. The team with the highest total score will be declared the overall Canadian National Fluid Power Challenge winner. The team with the highest portfolio score will also receive an award. Cost to each school is a nominal $100. For that, they will receive about $500 worth of materials as well as support from the CFPA and Mechanical Kits.

The CFPA’s current focus is getting the word out to classroom teachers and school board technology coordinators. As a reader of Design Engineering, you can help. If you have a child in middle school or know a teacher or board staff involved in science education, please let them know about our challenge and send them to our website for more information.


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