For ten weeks area students have been building, learning, and putting the Engineering Design Model to the test.
The day they had been preparing for, the Southwest Regional KidWind competition in Dodge City, had finally arrived. On Tuesday, Feb. 25, 19 students on four teams prepared by the Kansas Wetlands Education Center took turbines their teams had built and tested them against sixteen other schools with participants ranging from fourth grade to seniors in high school, with the goal of producing the highest energy output in the form of Joules.
Each team also presented their designs and research to a panel of judges, took an energy knowledge quiz and participated in an “instant challenge,” in which the teams had a limited time and a bag of supplies to create a machine that could lift the most weight.
This is the second year that eighth-grader Kansas Lange has participated. She said “KidWind is an opportunity to learn about energy and discover what you can do to help make a cleaner future for yourself and the next generation.”
In preparation for the competition, KWEC teams toured the Smoky Hill Wind Farm near Lincoln. Its operator, Enel, is a sponsor of the Kansas KidWind program, which is organized through the Kansas Energy Program. KWEC also received assistance through engineers from Midwest Energy. They provided a safety demonstration and presentation on energy production. All teams are required to use a standard generator but they were challenged to create their own designs to make the turbine base, drivetrain and blades.
Blade materials ranged from insulation foam board, campaign sign boards, to recycled cans from the school kitchen. Teams used gears, different pitches (blade angles), and gear systems, until they had what they hoped was a winning design.
Parent and co-coach Amber Rugan appreciated that the teams learned that the clear and detailed presentation of a project is as important as designing and building the project, “Wind energy industry, turbine design, scientific principles, power tools, group dynamics, strengths and weaknesses, seeking experts who can mentor, the lessons learned during KidWind varied and often are subtle, yet foundational to future success.”
KWEC-sponsored team Relevant Energy placed first among middle school teams at the regional competition, as well as receiving the judges’ favorite award. They will be competing at the Statewide Challenge in Topeka on April 4.
The KWEC is located 10 miles northeast of Great Bend along K-156 at Cheyenne Bottoms. Admission is free. KWEC hopes to make the KidWind challenge an annual program offered through the center. For more information visit wetlandscenter.fhsu.edu or call 877-243-9268.