Kids compete in wind turbine design competition and solar boat race on May 5th


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Challenge participants

The 2nd Annual Minnesota Renewable Energy Challenge is fast approaching—and teams are hard at work designing their wind turbines and solar boats:

“Dude, how many milli-watt seconds did you get with that vertical axis turbine?”

“Woah, these airfoil blades are spinning mad-fast!”

“Maybe we should, like, charge the capacitor in case the sun goes behind that cloud…”

You might do a double take when you see who is having these conversations—middle school students discussing the coefficient of power? High school students arguing over the optimal blade pitch for their turbine at 7 m/s wind speeds? Welcome to the excitement and energy of the Minnesota Renewable Energy Challenge!

The Minnesota Renewable Energy Challenge is a student-driven wind turbine design competition, solar boat race, and renewable energy career exploration. Since early March, teams of middle and high school students from all over the state have been designing and testing small-scale wind turbines that can stand up to the critical eye of wind turbine engineers and the stresses of a portable wind tunnel. They are also designing small solar boats to race, and interviewing professionals in the renewable energy industry. The teams will convene on Saturday, May 5 to compete at the School of Environmental Studies in Apple Valley, MN.

While the students are competing for prizes and bragging rights, the event is about experiencing clean energy science and technology at a fundamental level through the process of inquiry and design. “We must engage the next generation of students in a hands-on, robust exploration of the science and technology that builds a renewable energy future,” said Michael Arquin, KidWind Project Director.

At the competition, teams must first defend their custom built wind turbine design choices in front of engineers from local renewable energy firms. They then put their turbines to the test in a 4 foot tall portable wind tunnel developed by KidWind. Once spinning, the turbines are connected to live-data monitoring software, and the power output is projected onto the wall for all to watch. Winners are chosen based on a combined score for turbine design, quality, knowledge, and power output. Bonus points are awarded during the solar boat race. Competition is fierce, and the designs vary widely.

Adding to the excitement of the day, students will learn about the 20 kW wind turbine and small solar array located at the School of Environmental Studies, and interact with representatives from local renewable energy groups, including Wind Turbine Industries Corp (WTIC), Sheerwind, Mortenson Construction, and Innovative Engineers from the University of Minnesota. “This eye-opening experience can easily be the spark that propels these students to become future engineers, policy-makers or clean energy technicians needed to move this industry forward.” commented Michael Arquin.

This event is free and open to the public!
Saturday, May 5 from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
School of Environmental Studies – Apple Valley, MN

Joe Rand is the Director of Training and Outreach at the KidWind Project. The Minnesota Renewable Energy Challenge is produced by KidWind in partnership with High Tech Kids. The Challenge is sponsored by Xcel Energy’s Windsource Program, Mortenson Construction, and Dakota Electric.

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Minnesota Department of Commerce University of Minnesota Regional Sustainable Development Partnerships and Extension Great Plains Institute Southwest Regional Development Commission