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Gaining knowledge through competition

Jesse Erlandson of Fergus Falls works with materials provided during the Fluid Power Challenge workshop day, in which seven schools participated. (Beth Leipholtz | Echo Press)1 / 2
Brandon-Evansville student Cade Carlson works on a prototype during the workshop, in which school teams learned about fluid power. In February, they will return and compete against one another in a Fluid Power Challenge. (Beth Leipholtz | Echo Press)2 / 2

Students from eight area schools are learning about fluid power in a unique manner — through competition.

On Wednesday, Jan. 4, eighth grade students from seven schools came together at the Alexandria Technical and Community College for a workshop day. During the workshop, they learned about fluid power, which is the use of fluids under pressure to generate, control and transmit power.

For the next seven weeks, the teams of four will work to develop the best plan for a machine that can rotate and lift objects. In order to succeed at this, teamwork is a must.

"One of the goals is teamwork, maybe even above learning about fluid power, although that certainly is a goal," said Heather Poush, executive administrative assistant at FORCE America, Inc., an event sponsor. "Their portfolio that they put together from now until challenge day will go through the teamwork process of design and how to build the machine when they come back for challenge day, and they have to work as a team to do that."

On Feb. 22, teams will reconvene for the Challenge Day, when they build a final machine and compete against the other schools. Poush says that it is intriguing to watch the students' knowledge develop through this process.

"They took a pre-survey today (Jan. 4) that kind of goes through a base knowledge of what they might know about fluid power, and then after the challenge day they'll take a survey," she said. "It's definitely cool to see the difference in knowledge levels, where they started and now where they are (on Challenge Day).

On Challenge Day, teams will be given about four hours to construct and test their prototype. Their prototypes will then be tested in front of the judges for a period of two minutes. The goal is to use the machines to grab a small, weighted cylinder and place it on a choice of three levels after rotating it, with the top level being smaller and worth the most points.

After all teams have a turn, judges will decide on winners in the areas of machine design, portfolio, teamwork, challenge and overall.

Schools participating in the Fluid Power Challenge are Alexandria, Ashby, Brandon-Evansville, Campbell-Tintah, Fergus Falls, Melrose, Osakis and Benson.

Beth Leipholtz

Beth is a reporter at the Echo Press. She graduated from the College of Saint Benedict in May 2015 with a degree in Communication and Hispanic Studies. Journalism has always been her passion, but she also enjoys blogging and graphic design. In her spare time, she's most likely at Crossfit or at home with her boyfriend and three dogs.

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