The Longfellow and Whitman Middle Schools in the Wauwatosa School District, Wauwatosa, Wisconsin, have received Fluid Power Challenge grants from the NFPA Education and Technology Foundation. With the help of the grant awards, the district incorporated fluid power into its curriculum this school year.

Here’s a progress report submitted b
y Jerry Merz, consultant, Wauwatosa School District.

Wauwatosa School District has made a number of significant changes in its curriculum this past year to align their science program to meet the new Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS.) The NGSS introduces students to some old and new developments in hydraulics, alternative power generation, and medicine.

The district adopted a new K-8 science program, Sangari Science, which was developed by NGSS architects in a 10 year National Science Foundation grant. The NGSS now incorporates engineering and modeling as integral components in the learning and practice of science. Hydraulics and pneumatics are widely used in Class 3 levers and are introduced to students in the fifth grade Sangari “Machines and Motion” module. Project Lead The Way (PLTW), a national engineering education program for sixth through twelfth grade, has research which shows that 45% of the students make their decision by sixth grade to make engineering/science a possible career pathway.

In middle school, the Sangari IQWEST science module further investigates hydraulics and pneumatics in the spiraling science curriculum.

Due to curriculum changes, the available time for traditional woodworking was reduced, and the district updated its Tech Ed instruction to incorporate the NFPA Fluid Power Challenge. Students are introduced to the 3D drawing and modeling through the use of Google SketchUp. All 480 sixth graders are exposed to the course content in modeling, design, primary tool usage, and basic engineering concepts. The program uses the wood kits that were developed for the Challenge. The kits introduce students to introductory hydraulic and pneumatic concepts and reinforce previously introduced ideas as students use the competition kits in one of the several NFPA Challenges during the class. This provides the students a tangible experience of building upon simple concepts, problem solving, and designing a hydraulic/pneumatic machine to meet the challenge. Students are also required to cut, drill and assemble their team designs.

The district is a certified PLTW school district offering 5 courses—Introduction to Engineering (IED), Principals of Engineering (POE), Digital Electronics (DE), Aerospace Engineering (AE), and Biotechnical Engineering (BE). The Principals of Engineering course at the high school level has a hydraulics instructional component which is enhanced through incorporating Mechanical Kits, as they are easy to use and reinforce rudimentary hydraulic concepts. The District is in the process of repairing and upgrading its current hydraulic trainers.

The district also introduced the PLTW middle school engineering curriculum, Gateway to Technology (GTT), and has established a district wide PLTW Club presence through the implementation of multiple clubs. First LEGO teams, a Rube Goldberg team, a Rockets for Schools team and VEX teams all have started to provide extended learning opportunities for students to further explore engineering and design concepts beyond the regular school day. Our Rube Goldberg team designed a hydraulics mechanism as one of its steps using flexible plastic tubing, a peanut butter container, solid water drainage tubes and a leather piston with water during the 2013 season. Our recently formed Wauwatosa Montessori PLTW Club started off their year with the Mechanical Kits building activity which included parents and students and is considering a school wide NFPA Challenge for next school year.

Wauwatosa wants to be known as a destination where students come to study engineering, including concepts of hydraulics. The Wauwatosa School District has begun to create this pathway to enable students and teachers to collaborate and develop a deeper understanding of STEM—Science, Technology, Engineering and Math.