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Fluid Power Press Release

The Fayette Business Education Partnership will host the Williams Fluid Power Challenge, a competition that gets middle school students excited about STEM based careers.  Developed by the National Fluid Power Association, 2015 will mark the second year the program will be held in Fayette County.  The Workshop Day for the event will be held on September 25, followed by a Challenge Day on November 12.  The event is being facilitated and sponsored by Williams, a natural gas infrastructure company, with offices in Connellsville and Pittsburgh.

“Williams first sponsored this program in Allegheny County two years ago.  We were overwhelmed by the positive feedback received from students, teachers, and volunteers, and have worked with organizers to expand the program first to Fayette County, and now to include students from Westmoreland County this fall.  Our vision is to provide students across the Pittsburgh region with the opportunity to participate in the program,” stated Leigh McIntosh, Local Outreach Partner with Williams.  

In May of 2013, John Holdren, Director of  the Office of Science and Technology reported to Congress that, “The health and longevity of our Nation’s, citizenry, economy and environmental resources depend in large part on the acceleration of scientific and technological innovations, such as those that improve health care, inspire new industries, protect the environment, and safeguard us from harm. Maintaining America’s historical preeminence in the STEM fields will require a concerted and inclusive effort to
ensure that the STEM workforce is equipped with the skills and training needed to excel in these fields.

Preparing a world class, skilled workforce is a top priority for the organizations that work together to form the Fayette Business Education Partnership.  The Fayette Business Education Partnership is administrated by the Fayette Chamber of Commerce.  Muriel Nuttall, Executive Director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, and a co-chair of the Partnership explains, “We are thrilled to be a part of such a great program and even more excited to announce that we have expanded the competition into Westmoreland County as well.  The Williams Fluid Power Challenge will provide the students with hands-on experience related to STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) disciplines, and provide insight into career options in technical fields.  These students come into the room with very little, if any, knowledge of hydraulics or pneumatics and within an hour or so they are building hydraulic lifts. It is a great interactive learning program.”  

Bill Thompson, Executive Director of Westmoreland Fayette Workforce Investment Board, noted, “The Williams Fluid Power Challenge is a shining example of business and education partnerships at work.  Fayette County shows how the power of collaboration across multiple organizations provides outstanding opportunities for students to gain real world experiences that will assist them in gaining skills for a successful future. We are pleased to be a part of the growth of this competition to include Westmoreland County”.  

During the Workshop Day, middle school students will learn from experts at Williams about fluid power technology (hydraulics and pneumatics) and gain hands-on experience while building a fluid power mechanism with real world applicability. The program is designed to introduce the students, and their teachers, to the world of engineering and fluid power careers.

Approximately six weeks later, students will return to Penn State for Challenge Day, where the 23 middle school teams (four students per team) will build fluid power mechanisms of their own design that pick an object from one platform, rotate and place it on another. In addition to the number of pick-and-place cycles a school’s machine completes, a review of each team’s design approach, teamwork and portfolio will be used in the final evaluation.  

Through the Challenges, the program aims to encourage students to select more mathematics and science courses in their high school curricula to keep their options open for technology-based post-secondary studies.

Janet Ward, Youth Programs Manager for the Westmoreland Fayette Workforce Investment Board and Fayette Business Education Partnership co-chair explained, “What better way to get our young people excited about technical careers than to provide them hands-on learning experiences like the Williams Fluid Power Challenge?  We look forward to the start of this competition, and bringing more programs like this to Fayette and Westmoreland Counties.”

A video of teams in action can be seen at the NFPA web site at:  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1oMe40JSsw4

In addition to Williams, sponsors of the Fayette County Fluid Power Challenge program include:  Fayette Business Education Partnership; Fayette County Chamber of Commerce; Fay-Penn Economic Development Council; Westmoreland Fayette Workforce Investment Board; Johnson Matthey, United Bank, Stahl’s Community Foundation of Fayette County, United Bank,

Representatives of the media are invited to attend the Workshop Day on September 25, and Challenge day on November 12. To learn more about the event, please contact Muriel Nuttall at the Fayette Chamber of Commerce, 724-437-4571.