This article was first published in the September 2009 issue of the now defunct Today’s Fluid Power magazine.
Fluid power isn’t sexy.
That’s the conclusion the international fluid power industry came to in 2007 as the reason why there is a shortage of people with fluid power skills influencing design decisions regarding which motion control technologies to use. The fluid power industry isn’t the only industry seeing this image problem. It’s a systemic crisis that permeates the entire US culture.
A 2008 Harris Interactive study for the American Society for Quality found that 44% of kids, ages 8-17, don’t know much about engineering, and 30% of the respondents want a more exciting profession than engineering. While 97% of parents stated they believe that knowledge of math and science will help their children have a successful career, only 20% encourage/will encourage their sons or daughters to become engineers.
The study further reports that kids don’t feel confident enough in their math or science skills (21%) to be good at engineering — despite the fact that the largest number of kids ranked math (22%) and science (17%) as their favorite subjects.
OK. We now know what the problem is so how do we fix it?
The US fluid power industry decided to develop alliances with FIRST (Foundation for the Inspiration and Recognition of Science and Technology), Project Lead The Way, and SME (Society of Manufacturing Engineers) Education Foundation to promote fluid power education in middle schools and high schools. They’ve created a ‘key school’ program, the Fluid Power Challenge, and the Fluid Power: A force for change video among other initiatives. The Fluid Power Education Foundation has scholarships for college bound student who will study fluid power.
I commend the US fluid power industry for their efforts, but there is shortsightedness to these educational outreach initiatives that I don’t think many engineering and fluid power industry leaders understand. Read more