April 10, 2019
Engineering Extension hosts first statewide KidWind Challenge
Teams from around the state of Kansas met March 30 in Topeka for the first statewide KidWind Challenge. This year's competition saw triple the number of participants — 49 to 159 students — from the previous year's event.
Hosted by the Kansas Energy Program, a part of the Kansas State University Engineering Extension office, the challenge concluded two-and-a-half months of hands-on wind-energy activities conducted in all corners of the state. The six winning teams from Kansas have now been invited to attend the national KidWind Challenge in Houston, Texas, in May.
"We inherited the KidWind Challenge from Ruth Douglas Miller, K-State professor of electrical engineering, who had been hosting the competitions since 2011," said David Carter, director of the Kansas Energy Program.
Even before hosting its first challenge in 2018, energy program personnel recognized the event wasn't reaching its full potential.
"We weren't pulling in any teams from western or southeastern Kansas," Carter said. "At that point, we realized we would have to hold regional challenges to reduce the travel burden for schools."
To qualify for this year's state final, each team had to first capture one of the top two spots in its age division during regional competitions held in Manhattan, Great Bend, Burlington and Oakley.
"By offering regional competitions throughout the state, more schools were able to participate," said Lynn Retz, energy director for the Kansas Corporation Commission. "Interest in the science of wind energy is growing due to the volume of wind farm construction in Kansas communities."
To prepare for the KidWind Challenge, teams study wind power, then build a turbine using a design and materials of their choice. During the competition, each team's turbine is put to the test in a 48-inch by 48-inch wind tunnel at a wind speed of approximately 3.5-5 meters per second. Team members are judged on their knowledge, design and documentation, as well as performance testing in the wind tunnel.
This year's competition also included an international flair as students from the Castle School in Somerset, United Kingdom, participated in the event remotely. This group shipped its wind turbine to Engineering Extension to test in the wind tunnel and met with the judges via Skype. Afterward, the designers had the opportunity to speak with some of the American students congregated in the event's staging area. The students from Britain hope to redesign their turbine and participate again next year.
Among the judges at this year's final event, was Kansas Lt. Gov. Lynn Rogers.
"I enjoyed judging at KidWind, and I'm encouraged to see so many students learning technology and STEM skills," Rogers said. He also spent time visiting with the teams prior to their performance testing.
Other judges included Matt Miller, KSNT-TV; Brian Plymesser, Enel Green Power North America; Lynn Retz and Amber Smith, Kansas Corporation Commission; and Bruce Snead, Kansas State University Engineering Extension.
This year's Kansas KidWind State Finals winners by school and grade category are as follows: in the fourth-eighth grades, first place, AEKG, Beloit Jr. High School; second place, Paola Middle 1, Paola Middle School; and third place, Electric Four, Lebo Homeschool Co-Op. In the ninth-12th grade, first place, Oxford Air Sharks, Oxford High School; second place, Thunderhawks, Wheatland High School; and third place, CBCR9, Sterling High School.