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Students learn team building at Fluid Power Challenge at Penn State Fayette

| Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015, 5:04 p.m.
Connellsville students (from left) Jared Kinner, Lexi Dunn, Kendal McCutcheon and Dani Wormack show their completed lift at the Williams Fluid Power Challenge held recently at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus.

Students from 23 area junior high and middle schools in Fayette and Westmoreland counties convened recently at Penn State Fayette, The Eberly Campus, for the second annual Williams Fluid Power Challenge.

Developed by the National Fluid Power Association, the event was sponsored by Williams, a natural gas infrastructure company with offices in Connellsville and Pittsburgh. The Fayette Business Education Partnership hosted the event.

The Fayette Business Education Partnership is a coalition of local businesses and schools whose mission is to provide Fayette County with a trained work force, said Muriel Nuttall, executive director of the Fayette County Chamber of Commerce, which administers the program.

Steve Shivak of SMC Business Councils, a Pittsburgh-based organization that focuses on small businesses and start-ups, said that this event helps young people equate math and science with careers.

“Young people can learn to take the abstract and turn it into reality,” Shivak said. “They learn that math and science matter in everyday life. They learn what makes the world work.”

He said it teaches young people other skills as well.

“They learn project management and team building,” he said.

Drew Powers of Williams Engineering said that outreach programs such as the Fluid Challenge are important to promoting STEM (Science Engineering Technology Math) careers.

“These activities make STEM careers relatable to the real world,” he said. “People can see what we do.”

This year, students used wood, glue, tubing and other supplies to construct an air-powered diagonal lift.

Mt. Pleasant Area teacher Michelle Yochovich said the students were selected for this competition based on character and dedication.

“It shows them how education is used in everyday life,” Yochovich said. “It exposes them to careers that they otherwise never would have thought of.”

Cecilia Fidler of Norwin participated in the event out of love of science.

“It's important to involve young people in science, so they can expand and grow as early as possible,” Fidler said. “Many people think that science is for adults. The next generation has a role to play in science, too.”

Abby White of Uniontown learned a lot about team building and project management during the event.

“I learned that you need to assign tasks,” White said. “If one person doesn't complete a task, the whole project stops.”

Kendal McCutcheon of Connellsville participated in the event for the second year.

“This year, we built a diagonal lift,” McCutcheon said. “Next year, I want to build a vertical lift.”

Selected teams will reconvene at the campus for a Challenge Day on Nov. 12.

Barbara Starn is a contributing writer for Trib Total Media.

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