Universities and corporations have a long history of relationships that are mostly tied to monetary support. In an age where universities are continuously looking for more funding and corporations are looking to fill the pipeline with qualified employees, these relationships have turned into more closely tied partnerships which include more interactive opportunities. Student exposure to real world technology and field product during their studies will be far more prepared to enter the work force. This interaction is vital in today’s competitive environment.
Launched in 1993, Parker’s University Lab Schools program aims to enhance engineering education and introduce system technologies and products to college students during their studies. Labs with hands-on learning test stations allow Parker to play a more active role in the nurturing of tomorrow's engineers and technical professionals rather than providing a CAD drawing for a text book.
Selected schools provide excellent engineering programs in a variety of disciplines to prepare future engineers. Parker supports its partner labs with funds, equipment and training materials. Often, it also sponsors scholarship programs.
One example is the Parker Hannifin Motion and Control Laboratory (PHMCL) established by Parker and Western Michigan University (WMU) in 2003 within the College of Engineering and Applied Sciences. The purpose of this lab is to teach the fundamentals of hydraulics, pneumatics and electro-mechanics. The PHMCL is used in both undergraduate and graduate level courses. Since Western Michigan University designated its lab as a Parker Lab School, a total of 65 students per year have reaped the benefits. Classes such as Motion and Control, Fluid Mechanics and Hydraulics, are just a few that are offered. Further, there was a desire to promote available scholarships to promising scholars.
Building upon the program’s success, WMU expanded its program above the requirements to extend dedicated use of lab to senior design projects in an effort to further expand the students’ knowledge. The facility has been used as the baseline for projects in both the departments of Mechanical and Aerospace Engineering, as well as Engineering Design, Manufacturing and Management Systems. Over the last year, several groups have carried out projects related to the Parker Hannifin Motion and Controls lab.
“The Parker Lab has supported me both financially and personally by allowing me to pursue a graduate degree and form lasting bonds with faculty expanding my network, both of which will open doors that would not have otherwise been open to me. It has quite literally given me the potential to enhance my quality of life now and in the future.“
Christopher Proctor, graduate student, WMU
The culmination of undergraduates' work at WMU in Engineering are senior design projects. WMU has participated in the National Fluid Power Association Chainless Challenge for several years as one of their senior project options. In fall of 2017, WMU assembled a two-student team focused on the design and construction of a hydraulically powered mono wheel cycle as part of the Chainless Challenge (See photo on right). The resulting vehicle received the Outstanding Craftsmanship Award at competition. Also, the students received the Outstanding Student Achievement Award; the only students out of more than 60 entrants to receive this award.
This article was contributed to by Valencia Rucker, market manager-university, Parker Hannifin Corporation.