The NFPA Education and Technology Foundation has awarded $97,000 to the Milwaukee School of Engineering (MSOE) in Milwaukee, WI to establish a mechatronics/fluid power laboratory.

The envisioned mechatronics/fluid power lab at MSOE will support a transformative curriculum that will develop students’ technical skills throughout the four years of undergraduate study.  Using this approach, a foundation in programming and mechatronics will be used as a platform to build student skills in modeling and simulation. In the latter part of the curriculum, students will be introduced to more complex, nonlinear systems and challenged to solve open-ended design problems.  Under this paradigm, graduates will become skilled in simulation, experimentation, analysis, and design. Open-ended laboratory and design experiences in the junior and senior years will foster creativity and innovation and better prepare graduates to work in emerging fields identified as critical areas of future competitiveness, including mobile hydraulics, industrial pneumatics, advanced manufacturing, medical applications, and sustainable energy technologies.

The planned mechatronics/fluid power lab will include modular hydraulic, pneumatic, electromechanical, and electrical components.  Undergraduate students will analyze systems in both open-loop and closed-loop operation.  The lab will use systems of up to 1 HP operated on 120 volts.  As the laboratory will be used to integrate mechatronics and fluid power applications across the curriculum, the facility will be used by mechanical engineering and mechanical engineering technology students in all four years of the curriculum.

Last year, a similar lab grant was awarded to Western Michigan University in Kalamazoo, MI. The university is currently developing its new fluid power lab in phases. On February 27, university faculty and Parker Hannifin engineers met to discuss industry collaboration in development of the lab. Additionally, Bimba Manufacturing, Alro Steel Corporation, and CADENAS PARTsolutions have offered to assist with the development.

Currently, one graduate and an undergraduate student are working on development of the first module of the laboratory. The physical structure and basic components of this module are already developed. The students are now designing additional pump support, sensors, data acquisition and the control system. This module is a low-power hydraulic flow system and will be used in the IME3840 class in the fall semester of this year. Using this system, students will be able to study friction characteristics of linear and turbulent flow systems. In the next phase, the module will be expanded to study the behavior of more realistic industrial flow systems.

Wanted: Product and material donations

If you would like to donate equipment or materials to either of the grant recipients, MSOE and Western Michigan, or to another NFPA Educator Member, contact Carrie Tatman Schwartz at 414-778-3347 or