School scoop -- Winds of change

Jun 06, 2013
Source: File image

The Maine Wind Blade Challenge

The Engineering Approach to Problem Solving is a class in Searsport District High School co-taught by Claire Guse and Ray Wirth. Students learn by solving a wide variety of problems, as well as technical writing skills by using them as an important part of presenting their solutions.

Searsport entered two teams from this class into the Maine Wind Blade Challenge, which took place May 3 at the University of Maine in Orono. The participants of Searsport team one were Kyle Blake, Jay Burkard and Arianna Tang. The participants of Searsport team two were Quin Fraser, Jessica Pendleton, and Betty Ding.

The Maine Wind Blade Challenge is put on by the Maine Composites Alliance and the Advanced Engineering Wood Composites Center at the University of Maine. Students, teachers and industry bring together their science, technology, engineering and mathematics skills (STEM) by building wind blades and coming together for a day of competition.

High school students learn about science, technology, engineering, and math, and apply their skills by building wind blades. The Maine Composite Alliance explains how at the same time students are developing problem solving and critical thinking skills while also learning to work effectively in teams.

Out of 60 teams, 49 had completed their work and made it to the competition. The challenge was to produce the maximum amount of electricity under an increasing load, within three minutes, with 18-inch wind blades. Teams are scored for the amount of electricity their blades produced.

Teams were sponsored by the Front Street Shipyard in Belfast. They helped out by generously providing materials, time, and expertise to help students build their blades.

This was not a piece of cake. Searsport started working on wind blades way back in January by researching wind blade and wind turbine operation and design. Pinwheels were used before doing anything — just to experiment with how wind blades worked.

After building wind blade designs to a 1:6 scale, they had to be tested in a bunch of trials with a small generator. After evaluating the performance of their models, teams had to scale up their designs, and build PVC molds for their blades and carved cores for the blades out of foam.

Finished molds, foam, and fiberglass were taken to the Front Street Shipyard where Searsport was taught how to use vacuum infusion to finish building their blades.

“It is a toss up which is the best day of the project — building the blades at the shipyard or the competition at UMO,” explains Guse.

Teams finished 12th and 14th this year. Searsport got second and fifth in presentations but 18th and 19th in electricity production. Guse explains that the fact that Searsport teams had very different blade designs but similar energy scores leads them to believe that their common hub design may be the biggest design feature needed to improve for the challenge next year.

O Canada!

Students in Searsport District High School French and Spanish classes finally got to visit Quebec City in Canada after a long time of fundraising and selling crepes. The average cost of the trip was $220 a person, plus additional spending money. Some students were able to receive a grant form the Cobe fund and had received a $250 scholarship for the trip.

The trip was a three day weekend, where students left the high school at 5:45 a.m. Friday morning, May 24 and returned Sunday night around 10:30 p.m.

Students got to stay at Hotel Classique and tour the upper and lower cities of Quebec while visiting tourist shops and churches along the way. There was also an artist square, where people would be doing things like character sketches or playing music.

Some of the most favorite places visited were the Chapels, Montmerency Falls, the largest mall in Quebec, and the aquarium. The walruses were my favorite!

There was a lot of free time to do whatever you wanted in the city. Unfortunately the rain made the weekend a little gross — and the fact that the sun came out before we left our last place.

I ran a fever up in Canada, but now that the sun is out, I am already planning to go back.

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