A specialist hydraulic engineering training facility, launched by The JCB Academy and Parker Hannifin in March 2015, is teaching young UK engineers valuable lessons in how fluid power works.
The JCB Academy provides specialist engineering tuition for students aged 14 to 19 years from its base in Rocester, UK. Established in 2010 as the UK's first University Technical College, the Academy was established to teach students business and engineering skills in a new and practical way; it aims to develop engineers and business leaders for the future.
Offering the right environment - and combining academic knowledge with practical skills development - is therefore critical for many education providers. Whilst the Academy's teaching standards are already high, complementing academic knowledge with practical skills is very important.
The JCB Academy and Parker had close links for several years. Then in 2014, the partners discussed opportunities to give students more hands-on hydraulic training experience.
Initially, Parker agreed to donate a hydraulic training rig, to help boost the academy’s fluid power curriculum. But as work progressed, both partners saw the potential for an even bigger and better project. A meeting with the principal and board of governors followed, and together the partners sketched ideas for more comprehensive learning space.
The new training area was specially designed to help apprentices explore the relationship between mechanical, electrical, and fluid power. It combines academic learning with a series of interactive challenges.
Parker worked with students and teachers to discuss ideas and possible layouts. Two apprentices were directly involved in helping to develop the project, and their input was valuable.
"For many years, there has been a severe shortage of young engineers in the UK. But things are starting to change, as young people start to see the potential rewards of working in this industry ... And of course, Parker wants to encourage and support that emerging talent, through partnership and our own company policies."
— Philip Ingate, training manager, Parker UK, and Ireland
After a few months of intensive work, the new Academy training area launched in March 2015, as part of National Apprenticeships Week. An overview of some elements of the center is shown below.
Fluid power bench - this interactive bench includes conventional and fluid power snooker cues, a miniature backhoe, hydraulic push-touch drawers, and the ‘Pyramid of Power’.
Hydraulic system drawers - a set of ‘hidden’ drawers with soft-touch open and close mechanism is set into the base of the fluid power bench. Each drawer features questions such as what, where, and how the parts of a hydraulic system generate, control, and deliver fluid power. There's a clear link between theory and practical application.
Traditional and fluid power snooker cues - two contrasting cues demonstrate alternative approaches. The traditional cue is held in place, and students push this to move a ball along the track into a large square pocket, with a built-in collection and return area. The fluid power cue features a hidden pneumatic system - simulating hydraulic power transfer from the cue handle cylinder to three-ball strike cylinders. Again, balls roll along the track to the square pocket.
Miniature backhoe - a fully-operational arm simulates an actual backhoe system, which students can control through an integrated joystick.
Hydraulic test rig - Students can experience a real hydraulic system, by using this customizable test bench with hoses and connectors.
This equipment shows the fundamentals of hydraulic testing. It also helps students to shift from theoretical understanding to practical handling.
A World in Motion display - this graphic wall backs onto the Fluid Thinkers display. The visual highlights some ways in which hydraulics has powered technology over the past 100 years. It includes numerous projects that Parker has contributed to, including the Apollo 11 moon landings, robotics in health, and the BLOODHOUND world land speed record bid.
Nutcracker suite - this system uses a manually-operated hydraulic pump to work a nut-cracking cylinder, showing power and control. The fully-enclosed machine system delivers a new nut from the supply hopper and drops the cracked nut into a collection bin. This allows designated teachers to fill, empty, and dispose of nuts safely.
Fluid Thinkers display - this graphic wall charts a timeline of fluid power through the ages. It features some notable scientists, physicists, and industrial engineers who influenced hydraulic thinking. The display also features pull-out seating, allowing for flexible lesson delivery.
Pyramid of Power - this interactive display looks at the importance of power in different forms, and explores how power is transferred from one form to another. The different faces of the pyramid rotate and illuminate, prompting questions and suggesting areas of physics to explore.
Pascal's U-tube challenge - This interactive push test introduces the hydraulic jack principle and links to the theory behind the U-tube system. Two connected cylinders of different diameters are linked to a pair of plungers. Pushing the plungers shows how the system reacts in terms of force, pressure, and displacement.
Since it opened, The JCB Academy has continued to inspire young minds, take their education to new levels, and open doors to a multitude of opportunities.
"It allows us to plant a seed with the younger learners. For the sixth formers and apprentices, it’s an opportunity to develop that knowledge and explore the practical applications. It allows them to investigate, research circuits, and model them; we wouldn’t have had that before, we would have done it from a textbook. It gives you something, but not that tactile nature...Through our work, we have links with many employers. NASA, Bentley, JLR, Toyota, Rolls-Royce, Michelin, Bombardier, and of course JCB all have learners that have been through our systems, as well as many smaller employers. That was why we were set up, and it has been gratifying along the way. We also have an association of ex-learners who come and talk about their experiences now, which is very powerful."
— Jim Bailey, vice principal
Indeed, the partnership with JCB Academy aligns with Parker's goal to help improve math and science education, and our focus on using Purpose as a platform for growth, change, and positive impact.
Watch the video Hydraulic Training Space launched by The JCB Academy and Parker Hannifin
Content by Philip Ingate, training manager, Parker UK, and Ireland
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