SUNY Poly students gear up to compete in NFPA Fluid Challenge

Sitting around the table in the College of Engineering Conference Room in Donovan Hall, five SUNY Poly Mechanical Engineering Technology (MET) students enthusiastically update their advisor, Dr. Ahmed Abdelaal, on the design that they’re moving forward with in preparation for the National Fluid Power Association’s (NFPA) Fluid Vehicle Challenge.

Abdelaal, an Assistant Professor of Mechanical Engineering Technology, has offered his support and knowledge to Pascal Harrison, Henry Miller, Josh Archanian, Thiha Soe and Chris Lam, who make up the first-ever SUNY Poly team that’ll travel to Iowa in the spring to partake in the competition.

Described as a unique engineering design and build competition, the Challenge strives to promote original thinking in a competitive setting by combining two technology platforms that are not normally associated with one another—human-powered vehicles and fluid power. Instead of designing a bike that runs manually (foot to pedal), students outfit it so it runs on a fluid-powered hydraulic system. Overall, the competition aims to create an environment that results in uncommon connections and breakthroughs, while supporting learning and the growth of fluid power industry knowledge.

The five SUNY Poly students have each owned the role they’ll play (see below) in creating a bike that will not only compete with those built by peers from universities across the country, but also fit within the parameters set by NFPA. Participating schools are provided stipends to cover the cost of materials and for traveling to the competition.

Meet the team!

Abdelaal, who specializes in thermal fluid sciences, learned about the Fluid Vehicle Challenge when he worked at Purdue University Northwest in Indiana. He got more involved at Texas A&M, where he spent the four years prior. The teams he advised at Texas A&M were well-regarded at the competition, and last year, under his tutelage, they were the event’s grand champion.

Upon joining SUNY Poly this fall, he reached out to students to gauge their interest in forming a team, and Harrison, Miller, Archanian, Soe and Lam answered the call. The past couple of months have served as a planning period, as the students decided on a design and what materials will be used, and after winter break, they will begin building the bike in preparation for the competition in April.

Abdelaal speaks highly of what the experience offers students.

Members of the team preparing for this spring’s competition.

“The three biggest aspects are the hands-on experience (applying what they learn in the classroom), building their communication skills for the real world (being able to communicate with an advisor, judges, people in industry), and third and most importantly, it provides them with career opportunities,” he said. “Industry professionals attend the competition and are looking to identify future employees. The chance to build these skills and earn future opportunities are what all young engineers are looking for.”

To learn more about the Fluid Vehicle Challenge or if you’re interested in getting involved in the 2024-25 academic year, contact Abdelaal at

Be on the lookout for a follow-up story in April when the team returns from Iowa, detailing how they fared and what they thought of the experience.