All of us in the pneumatics industry care about education. We care what our next generation of engineers and managers are learning (and not learning) in school. And we care about how and what people can learn about our technology when they are out of school and on the job — our customers and those we would like to be our customers.
For years we have been concerned that our efforts to educate new audiences about the benefits of pneumatics have fallen short. But new and exciting initiatives have the potential to make a difference. Some are happening through NFPA. As Chairman of both NFPA's Board of Directors and Pneumatics Council, I can tell you first-hand about the association's many efforts to build a community of interest in fluid power. Our projects in support of pneumatics offer some great examples.
We have just posted a web-based introduction to our technology, Fundamentals of Pneumatics, onto NFPA's website. Its development is a testament to the benefits of cooperative effort. The program is based on an introductory set of lessons first developed by Festo Corp. A task force — with representatives from Bosch Rexroth, Festo, and Parker Hannifin — helped NFPA staff develop the new, generic version; students and staff at Nebraska's Central Community College provided the technical support. Funding for the program was unanimously approved by members of NFPA's Pneumatics Council and Education Committee. These group decisions involved at least another 50 companies.
All the players in this effort shared in the same goals: to offer a widely accessible and meaningful introduction to pneumatic technology to wide
ranging audiences, and then to provide them with easy routes to learn more through links to the websites of NFPA's pneumatic manufacturers. There will be no charge for access to this program, and the association will promote it aggressively.
Our community of interest extends to university faculty and their students, too. More than twenty schools now have complimentary memberships in NFPA. As a result, more and more communication is being shared between our industry and educators, and we're discovering how much industry-relevant research is taking place that we haven't been aware. For example, until NFPA's Industry/Educator Summit last fall, we didn't know about the exciting work in pneumatics that is being conducted at Vanderbilt University. In order to help spread the word, NFPA's Pneumatics Council sponsored a webcast last March in which these researchers shared their work with our members—industry-and university-based. More webcasts will follow.
These are just our newest initiatives; other programs already in are place. With the help of Hydraulics & Pneumatics, we're continually adding more pneumatic case studies at NFPA's website. FIRST is another fine example. NFPA is one organization of many helping to support this program for high school students.
It is heartening to see that cooperative effort, better communication, and strategic alliances can translate into programs that make a difference. As we so often say at NFPA, there really is power in association.
Joseph Hughes, chairman NFPA Pneumatics Council President, Hoerbiger-Origa Corp.