Two years ago, the Parker-Hannifin Foundation announced a $2.5 million gift to establish a Parker Motion and Control Lab at Purdue University’s new Agricultural and Biological Engineering (ABE) facility.
Today, despite the disruption of a global pandemic, the potential of that gift— and the vision behind it— has been realized. Take a trip to Lafayette, Indiana and you’ll find Purdue students sitting down for a coffee in the new Parker Wing of a freshly remodeled ABE building. Step inside and you’ll see engineering students getting hands-on with Parker products and technologies in one of the most advanced academic labs in the country.
This expansion is a development 30 years in the making. Parker officially launched its university lab program in 1993 and established the teaching lab at Purdue, a world-renowned public research university focused on advancing science, technology, engineering and math, soon after. But the company has been committed to community and educational support for young people for even longer—since its founding in 1917.
“We now have Parker-sponsored Motion & Control Labs in 13 universities,” explains Valencia Griffin, market manager, university, for Parker’s Fluid Connectors and Motion Systems Groups. “Each lab is different and our schools are encouraged to customize their facility to meet the needs of their students.”
And customize they have. Prior to the update, the training equipment provided by Parker decades earlier was relatively large, immobile and starting to feel a bit outdated. The team at Purdue, led by professor of agricultural and biological engineering Andrea Vacca and doctoral student Hassan Assaf, worked with Parker to design a more user-friendly model that could benefit students everywhere.
The new trainer features touchscreen capability so students don't have to refer to their textbooks as often and can easily scroll through the various lab experiences available to them. At the same time, the team expanded the number of labs by 50%. Finally, they added a storage bin that can be attached or removed to keep components handy.
“Parker was incredibly supportive during the design and development process,” says Assaf. “They did not hesitate to offer me all the technical help that was needed, starting with feedback on the trainer design, component selection and lab design. Merging our academic and industrial knowledge enabled us to design a successful trainer.”
And perhaps the single biggest advancement came from reimagining the way lessons are delivered. While the lab was intended to provide real-world, hands-on experience, many students transitioned to virtual learning during that same time period. Assaf also developed a virtual reality application to replicate the physical trainers, enabling online learners to have remote lab experiences as well.
“Our partners at Purdue have been incredible collaborators,” adds Griffin. “Not only are we advancing STEM education and providing a bridge between the classroom and the workplace, we are aligning around our Parker’s purpose.”
Indeed enabling and empowering the next generation of engineers with Parker innovation and expertise today has the potential to create a better tomorrow for all of us.
*Photo credit: Purdue photographer, Tom Campbell