Kansas is the fourth-largest wind producing state in the nation, with wind generating 36 percent of the state’s electricity. A group of middle school students has been meeting at the Kansas Wetlands Education Center for the past few months learning all about wind energy and preparing to compete in the KidWind challenge sponsored by the Kansas Energy Program.
Students were introduced to the engineering design process through a series of wind-related experiments. They toured the Smoky Hill Wind Farm, owned by Enel, one of the sponsors of the KidWind Challenge. They also learned how alternative energy sources affect wildlife from guest speaker Brad Loveless, secretary of the Kansas Department of Wildlife, Parks, and Tourism.
The southwest regional KidWind competition was held at KWEC on Tuesday, March 5.
Ryan Hamel, with K-State Engineering Extension, said the KidWind Challenge is the ultimate wind energy learning experience for students in grades four through 12.
The goal is to have fun building a device that converts moving wind into electricity.
“If along the way, students learn some physics, engineering, environmental science and policy, that is great,” Hamel said.
Eight teams from as far as Valley Center brought student-built turbine models that were tested for total energy output. Teams also took a knowledge test and gave presentations about their project to a panel of judges from the wind energy industry.
KWEC sponsored two middle school level teams, the Wind Wishers and Wind Vane, represented by youth from Great Bend, Ellinwood, Garfield, Hoisington and Otis-Bison schools.
The Wind Wishers team placed second and will go on to compete at the state KidWind Challenge in Topeka on March 30, against the winners of other regional competitions held in Manhattan, Burlington and Oakley.
KWEC plans to offer more STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) opportunities, including the KidWind challenge again in the future. Call 877-243-9268 or visit wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu for more information.