A unique competition that will allow students to develop an appreciation for the design and build process, a sense of accomplishment and earn bragging rights for their school is on the cards this year. St. John’s College (SJC) physics teacher Father Shazz Turnquest is introducing KidWind Challenge to The Bahamas.
The competition, which is expected to be launched this month, will be open to students from all schools.
The KidWind Challenge is a hands-on design competition that engages students in STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) through the lens of wind and solar energy. Student teams design and construct small wind turbines and solar structures that they test, and then meet with a panel of judges to present their design process and demonstrate their contextual knowledge of renewable energy. Teams also engage in a variety of instant challenges to gauge their on-the-spot teamwork problem-solving skills.
Students will be judged on measured power output for 30 seconds, aesthetics and elegance of wind turbine blade and tower design and question-and-answer sessions on wind energy fundamentals.
The KidWind Challenge is a team effort of teachers, students, engineers and practitioners all working to make wind energy education and other renewable energy education accessible in classrooms around the world.
SJC Energy Academy, SATurn Innovations GEF Small Grant and Bahamas Power and Light (BPL) have partnered for the competition.
The winner will be afforded the opportunity to represent The Bahamas at KidWind Challenge in Denver, Colorado, in winter 2020.
Using the latest hands-on science kits, participants have the opportunity to build their own wind turbine, adjust its variables to maximize power output, build active and passive solar installations and experiment with fuel cells and the principles of electrolysis, according to Turnquest. He said the program aims to stimulate interest in the important field of science and technology, and to position The Bahamas as progressive in empowering the next generation of global citizens to play their part in creating a sustainable environment by making sensible energy choices.
It’s a competition Turnquest said is important.
“STEM (science, technology, engineering and math) is a platform that allows children to be engaged. They learn by building, making and doing.”
Turnquest has led SJC students in building solar cars twice, and he said a competition the likes of KidWind is the next logical step.
Turnquest was introduced to the KidWind program in August 2019 while visiting the first offshore wind turbine installation in the United States (U.S.) at Block Island wind farm in Rhode Island. The visit concluded the KidWind training for science teachers held at the University of Rhode Island.
“Some of the things I saw those kids do was high tech…and they’re like eighth grade,” said Turnquest.
He decided then that he wanted to bring the competition to The Bahamas.
“Bahamian kids are just as intelligent, and I want to see what they’re going to come up with,” he said of the competition that is expected to launch this week and foster a spirit of excellence, attention to detail, problem solving and the gamut of science.
The goals of KidWind Challenge are to get students excited about the promise and opportunities of renewable energy – specifically wind and solar power – and its relationship to global climate change; to foster opportunities for students to build, test, explore and understand wind and solar energy technology at a manageable scale; to get all students – particularly girls and underrepresented populations – excited about careers in fields related to renewable energy; to build the capacity of teachers, coaches and other educators to better understand wind and solar energy technology and development, as well as its promise and limitations; and to connect students to mentors and role models in the renewable energy industry.
Students in grades six through nine are eligible to participate in the KidWind Competition. Teams can consist of no more than three students and one teacher. Schools can enter more than one team.
Teams will be supplied with a KidWind basic turbine building parts kit which includes the KidWind motor, the hub and 25 dowels. Students are required to design wind turbine blades that connect to the dowels and are inserted into the KidWind hub. Teams are also required to design and build a tower for their wind turbines. The entire unit must fit and operate within a space of 48 inches by 48 inches, which is the internal dimensions of the wind tunnel. The team that generates the most power over a 30-second recording window as well as creates the most innovative design will be crowned the winners of the challenge. Students will also be required to answer questions by the judges to determine their level of understanding of wind power and wind turbine design.
“After Hurricane Dorian, this shows the importance of renewable energy. If we had wind turbines, we could have taken them down the day before the storm came and put them back up after. Dorian helped to raise the importance of how important wind energy is… It’s critical,” said Turnquest.
The very first KidWind Challenge was held in a science classroom in Monterey, California, in 2003. It was a spontaneous end-of-year project for Michael Arquin’s sixth grade science class. He had been searching for a fun, open-ended wind project similar to Junior Solar Sprint that he had been doing with his students for years, but could not find anything similar in the wind arena. He spent a little time developing the idea, collected some materials and off he went with his classes. Based on the student response, it was clear that the project idea had legs. Even though it was the end of the year, students were showing up before school and at lunch to work on their turbines.
In 2009, with support from NYSERDA (New York State Energy Research and Development), KidWind held the first four KidWind Challenges across New York State. The events were inspired by a wind energy challenge, WindENG, that was discovered was being held at the University of Guelph in Canada, where they had a real wind tunnel.
If they were going to hold a challenge in various locations, they needed a portable wind tunnel. They were told it would cost $50,000 to make a portable wind tunnel, so they took it to some different experts and gave a group of high school students $1,000 to build a portable wind tunnel – which they did.
They carted the monstrosity around the state to their four challenges. It wasn’t perfect, but they said it was fun. After the first four events they were hooked, and have spent the last 10 years refining KidWind Challenges, and say they are addicted to making them better, more interesting and more challenging.
Every year, the students get more imaginative and more inspiring. The structures that students construct continuously, they say, blow them away and keep pushing them to work harder and smarter to create authentic educational opportunities for students.