BALLSTON SPA — The KidWind Challenge, a middle and high school student challenge is the “ultimate wind energy learning experience for students,” said the official website.
When students partake in the challenge they discover the promise and limitations of wind energy technology, design, build, and test a functional creative wind turbine, and compete with their peers in a supportive environment. Students from Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School in Malta, team name Cool Breeze, are traveling to Chicago for nationals on May 8-10. Cool Breeze is made up of juniors from Galway School and Fort Edward School; Erik Malanoski, Lindsey Gilesky, Jacob O’Brien, and Christian Hines from Galway and Derek Lyons from Fort Edward. The team is coached by John Balet, an instructor with the Clean Technologies and Sustainable Industries Early College High School Program at Ballston Spa. He facilitated the KidWind project in the classroom for the past three years within a transdisciplinary classroom of juniors with a math and English teacher. On March 17, the team qualified to participate in the KidWind Regional Competition at the GE Renewable Energy Headquarters in Schenectady. Placing second in that competition secured them an invitation to the national competition in Chicago.
“They did not simply design a turbine to produce power. Although this design was a big part of the competition, the team’s knowledge of wind energy, production, marketing, and ultimate environmental implications brought them to a qualifying position at the GE competition,” said Balet via email.
The team is attaining the funds for the trip through a variety of sources, it is not gifted to them through the school or competition.
“The engineering design process we use in this 2-week unit plays a significant role in the students’ competitive edge. The concepts of wind energy are researched and then students apply what they learn to basic blade designs. As the students form self-selected teams to complete the classroom KidWind challenge, the instructors do not simply provide the answers, but rather the guidance to suggest different ideas and approaches to the designs. There is a lot of trial and error throughout the process. This student team relayed this fact to the judges at the GE competition as they discussed their successes, the challenges they faced both with the design and with their peers as they collaborated on the project, and all that they learned from the numerous failed designs. Ultimately, the judges were impressed with the students’ knowledge of wind energy as well as their candid discussions of the real challenges they faced and how they overcame them,” he explained.
This is the third year that the Clean Tech ECHS has had a team participate in the National KidWind Challenge.