The Design News Resource Center Special Report this week had a bit about Educational training kits:
"Clippard's Fluid Power Educational Kits are designed to help provide a practical understanding of the basic concepts of fluid power. They consist of many components, the same components used in industry today to provide control and work in thousands of different applications. These kits are designed to work in conjunction with the Fluid Power Education Foundation's standard curriculum which may be downloaded at no charge."
While I am sure that a scene shop could probably build a kit, the prices were not unreasonable. I have to admit that I dream of an automation design / testing playroom in an academic situation where the tools and components are available and focus can be on creating / developing systems and techniques for a variety of automation challenges as opposed to only book learning, or focusing in on one special case (the turntable for x show verses a trap for y show). I feel it is particularly necessary because in the production environment you can't rely on a consistent learning environment.