Students harness the wind at regional design competition

Jodi Willden, a fourth grade STEM teacher at Burlington Elementary School in Longmont, Colorado, brought some of her students to the KidWind Challenge March 5. 

A gust of excitement blew through the Energy Institute at Colorado State University this week as it hosted nearly 60 students across the state for the regional KidWind Challenge – the ultimate wind turbine design competition.

The day-long event, held at the Powerhouse Energy Campus, allowed 4th- through 12th-graders to explore the power of wind energy by designing, building and testing a functional wind turbine. Besides putting the performance of their handcrafted designs to the test in CSU’s wind tunnel, eight teams participated in competitions ranging from a MacGyver design challenge to oral presentations.

“This wasn’t your average science fair,” said Jason Quinn, associate professor in the Department of Mechanical Engineering, who organized the event. “We saw the KidWind Challenge as a huge opportunity to bring kids to a vibrant university setting to get them excited about alternative technologies.”

In addition to the hands-on design competitions, the event included tours of the Powerhouse Energy Campus to show students different aspects of the clean energy sector.

Patrick Riley, a sixth-grader at Highlands Middle School in Ault, Colorado, was blown away by the experience. “This is one of the most fun projects I’ve ever done,” said Riley. “It took a lot of creativity and teamwork.”

student with string and a cup

And the winners are…

A panel of energy experts evaluated each team’s wind turbine energy output and design, the documentation of their design process, and their understanding of wind and renewable energy. The first- and second-place winners earn a spot at the 2019 National KidWind Challenge at the American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Expo in Houston, May 20-23.

Elementary and middle school division: 

First place: Deer Creek Middle School, Littleton

Second place: Girls Athletic Leadership School, Denver

High school division:

First place: Heritage Christian Academy, Fort Collins

The KidWind Challenge was made possible by individual and corporate sponsors, including the United States Department of Energy, American Wind Energy Association, Primus Wind Power, Inc., Senvion U.S.A Corporation, Vestas, Western Resource Advocates, Harness Energy, Community Energy Solar, Hoss Consulting, General Electric and Ms. Liz Gardner, as well as CSU partners from the Office of the Vice President for Research, the Department of Mechanical Engineering and the Energy Institute.

“My goal is to build on this year’s success and make it an annual event,” said Quinn.