Record Numbers for 2019 Fluid Power Competition

25 teams from 10 area middle schools recently participated in the National Fluid Power Association (NFPA) Fluid Power Action Challenge at Joliet Junior College. The fifth annual event was held in partnership with Caterpillar, Inc. and JJC.

A record number of eighth grade students participated in this year’s event. Students worked in teams to solve a real-life engineering problem by using fluid power. The teams had to design and build a functional fluid power mechanism in a timed competition.

Fluid Power Challenge overall winners 2019
Overall winner: Immaculate Conception School. From left: 
Instructor Janelle Aldrich; Steve Ufheil, Caterpillar; students 
Lucas Munsell, Katey Lawyer, Andrew Danek; and Tamara
Holman, Caterpillar.

Teams that participated in the competition included: Aux Sable Middle School, St. Jude School – New Lenox, Coal City Middle School, Manhattan Jr. High, Immaculate Conception School, Richard Ira Jones, Seneca Middle School, Saratoga Middle School, Wilmington Middle School and Minooka Jr. High.

The event consisted of two segments, a workshop and a challenge, conducted earlier this fall.  

During the workshop day back in September, engineers from Caterpillar introduced the students to fluid power. The students built a pneumatic lifter and learned about the skills needed to be successful on competition day. Students then took their kits, tools and supplies back to their respective schools, where they spent the next several weeks building and testing a prototype, developing a portfolio and preparing for Challenge Day. Engineers from Caterpillar also visited each school to share their expertise and assist them with the final preparations for competition.

Teams returned to JJC on Friday, Nov. 15 for Challenge Day. Students had to use their portfolio designs and tool kits to rebuild the fluid power mechanism. During the timed competition, students had to pick up weighted objects and place them on a platform. Teams were also graded in areas for total points, portfolio ideas, design and teamwork. Caterpillar engineers judged the competition. Representatives from NFPA also attended the event.

12 teams succeeded in building a machine with all three functions working, the most out of any year.

2019 Challenge Day winners:

  • Overall Winner: Immaculate Conception School – Team 1
  • Best Portfolio: Ira Jones Middle School – Team 1
  • Challenge: Immaculate Conception School – Team 1
  • Work Habits: Manhattan Jr High – Team 1
  • Device Design & Operation: Minooka Jr. High School – Team 1

View photos from the Fluid Power Action Challenge:

For more information about the Fluid Power Challenge and other STEM-related events at JJC, contact Amy Murphy at or (815) 280-1418.