Komatsu Power Fluid Challenge wraps up

GEMS team members from the Oil City Middle School put their device to the test. (By Brad Lena)

Teams of seventh and eighth-grade students from eight area school districts gathered Tuesday at the Rocky Grove fire hall to compete in the Power Fluid Challenge hosted by Komatsu Mining Corp. of Franklin.

The teams, consisting of two to four students, came from Oil City, Franklin, Cranberry, Valley Grove, North Clarion, Clarion-Limestone, Moniteau, and Wilmington school districts.

The goal of the challenge, the third held by Komatsu, “is to bring awareness and interest in the careers of engineering, hydraulic and pneumatic technology,” said Roy Schmoutz, Komatsu global hydraulic specialist and the event co-chair.

It’s an opportunity to engage the community and connect with local schools, added Hailee Amos, Komatsu mechanical engineer and event co-chair.

The challenge consists of two events. At Workshop Day, the teams receive identical tools, instructions, building materials, design specifications, and requirements, Amos said.

Over the next six weeks, the teams create a portfolio of their drawings, designs, modifications, and division of labor.

Their solutions are put to the test on Challenge Day. Each team entirely rebuilds its device, and the teams build and practice the required capabilities of their device prior to competing, according to Amos.

During the competition, teams have two minutes to pick up, rotate, and cleanly set down a wooden dowel in a specific location on the challenge board as many times as possible.

The judges, who are Komatsu employee volunteers, also award points based on the rotation, extension, and height capabilities of each device.

The portfolio is the only item the teams can bring in with them, said Amos.

In addition to how well their device meets capability requirements, the teams are judged and awarded points for their portfolio, model/design, teamwork, timed competition, spirit of the competition, and interview skills.

The team receiving the most points is declared the grand champion, and that honor went to the Wilmington Middle School Greyhounds.

Other winners were:

  • Interview champion — Oil City Middle School GEMS Club
  • Model design champion — Moniteau School District Bulldozers
  • Portfolio champion — North Clarion High School Hyper Hydraulics
  • Spirit of the Competition champion — Franklin School District Fab Four
  • Teamwork champion — Cranberry School District FREP (Friends Ready to Engage Power)
  • Timed competition champion — Rocky Grove High School Team 1

The Wilmington grand champion team was awarded a one-year license for hydraulic engineering software and a $250 gift card and merchandise from competition sponsors.

After a pandemic-induced disruption, Schmoltz said it was great to see teachers and students together again and the Fluid Power Challenge will be back next year.