It's heartening to be able to tell a success story at the start of a new year — actually not just one, but several. Each instance involves breakthroughs in how our industry and academia are approaching fluid power research and education. Together, we are discovering new ways to exploit the inherent advantages of hydraulics and pneumatics and propel their use into new fields. We also are finding innovative ways to actively engage students in the study of fluid power.
How do we know there is growth? While we at NFPA are aware of many projects underway, we know most about those that are wholly funded or partially supported through the Education Fund, established four years ago by our Board of Directors in support of fluid power education and research.
NFPA's third Educator-Industry Summit brought together 21 educators and their students from 15 universities with a broad cross-section of NFPA's membership. Research projects were presented, ideas were shared, and new lines of communication were opened. That summit drew three times the number of industry participants as the first one did in 2001. Feedback has been so outstanding that we have already begun planning the fourth summit.
Last fall also marked the beginning of our first Cooperative Network for Research in Motion Control through Fluid Power. Sixteen companies elected to fund two-year research projects at Georgia Tech, MSOE, and the University of Minnesota. Representatives from the supporting companies selected these projects because of the importance of the proposed work to our overall industry. Preparations are already underway for the next round of projects, to begin in the fall of 2005.
Because of the generosity of individuals, companies and foundations, three new centers are dedicated to research and teaching in areas directly relevant to our industry. These centers are at the University of Missouri-Columbia, Georgia Tech, and Purdue. Once again, NFPA has drawn on the Education Fund to provide added support.
NFPA also offers small grants to technical schools and universities in support of projects that engage students in learning about hydraulics and pneumatics — in the classroom and in the lab. Over the last three years, grants ranging from $1,000-$5,000 have funded 21 projects. Progress reports from project leaders ensure the value of this grassroots program.
Faculty at the universities of Minnesota and Illinois, Purdue, Georgia Tech, and Vanderbilt have collaborated in submitting a proposal to the National Science Foundation for the establishment of an Engineering Research Center for Compact and Efficient Fluid Power. NFPA, several of its members, and the participating universities have all pledged support. Competition for this grant is stiff, but win or lose, the cooperative effort of those involved has already resulted in positive outcomes.
Perhaps the biggest success story of all is the can-do spirit that's developing as the fluid power community grows in activity and influence. Educators and many in our industry are encouraged by the measurable progress of just a few short years and energized by the enormous potential of continued work together. We at NFPA are honored to be playing a part.
Executive Director, NFPA