Williams sponsors fourth annual Fluid Power Challenge

How do you lift a weighted object using water? On March 23, middle school students from around the state put their critical thinking skills to the test, solving an engineering problem with fluid power, which uses a gas or liquid to transmit power from one location to another. The students, working in teams with their classmates, designed and created a fluid-powered machine and competed for top honors in categories such as best design, best teamwork and best portfolio.

This year marked the fourth annual Williams Fluid Power Challenge. The event is a two-part competition, kicking off with a workshop day that introduced teams to the basics of fluid power and chemical safety. Pittsburgh-area Williams employees volunteered their time and knowledge to mentor more than 130 students as they prepared for the competition. You can read more about a STEM workshop that Williams hosted in February in this blog post.

Students returned to the Union Brotherhood of Carpenters training center in Pittsburgh on competition day for the chance to put their knowledge to the test by using hydraulics to build functional machines. Williams sponsors this event in Allegheny County, as well as nearby Fayette and Westmoreland counties.

Participating in hands-on events such as the Williams Fluid Power Challenge has a multitude of benefits, says Chad Warren, a Chartiers Valley Middle School technology teacher who mentored the eighth-grade student team.

“They have to learn to think outside the box,” if they run into a problem during the competition, Warren says. “It definitely helps then when they’re solving problems in the class.”

The teamwork also helps students gain a better understanding of the give and take of group dynamics.

“The students learn that if they don’t plan, if they don’t do their research and prepare, they’re not going to make it to the next level of competition,” Warren says.

The competitive environment fosters a lasting learning spirit, fellow Chartiers Valley Middle School technology teacher Mark McAleer says.

Students who compete as seventh-graders often return the following year ready to apply the tips and tricks they picked up during their previous experience.

Williams is thankful for the opportunity to sponsor this competition each year. It allows the company to engage young learners in hands-on STEM activities and to be a part of training the next generation of engineers, manufacturers and industry leaders.

This year’s honors went to:

First place: Carlynton Junior High

Second place: Freeport Junior High Team 2

Third place: Linton Middle School Team 1

The category winners are below.

Best Design: Chartiers Valley Middle School Team 1

Best Teamwork: Independence Middle School Team 1

Best Portfolio: Freeport Middle School Team 1