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Tec-Smart Kid Wind Competition

Christian Hines, EMC Staff Writer

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There has been a lot happening in our Tec-Smart program lately. There are many great opportunities through Tec-Smart coming along all of the time. The latest was the opportunity to create a small wind turbine. We were given the challenge of creating a wind turbine that could generate the most power and be the most efficient. There was a lot of research in the beginning  with finding out how many gears to use and how to make the blades spin fast without creating a lot of resistance and friction. All students at Tec-Smart were put into groups of about five students and were told to start designing. We were given materials such as cardboard and wood for the blades, and gears to try and find the best gear ratio that would create a lot of power and cause the blades to spin the fastest.

My group was made up of Erik Malanoski, Jacob O’Brien, Lindsey Gileski, Derek Lyons (from Fort Edward), and myself. We faced many challenges along the course of two weeks in creating our design. We were all very creative and wanted to try as many different designs in the amount of time we had. Certain blades worked great and other were complete fails. Then, the
competition really picked up and groups were generating more power than us and my group certainly did not want to lose. Jacob ended up going home one night to create a new base out of hardwood, and a stand out of PVC pipe with connections to put the blades on. This ended up working very well but our blades were still slightly subpar to the rest. We kept on working and trying different designs and changing the pitch angles on the blades to capture more wind. At this point we were getting better but the competition was the next day. That night we all went home and hoped for the best. Now it is competition day and all of the groups are competing against each other to be one of the top three teams to go and compete at the regional Kid Wind competition at GE in Schenectady on March 17. Our blades tested and we didn’t have the results we wanted– we were sure we were not going to advance.

The next day our teachers informed us we were just good enough to be one of the three teams selected to go to GE. We were all shocked and excited but this meant we had to work extremely hard for the next three days to improve our design. Lindsey and I ended up visiting with Mrs. Donnan on Thursday and she gave us some pointers and allowed us to work in her room to tweak our design. At this point our gear system was working great. Then the Friday before competition rolled around and we still didn’t have any blades that we thought were as competitive as we would have liked. That Friday, Lindsey and I stayed after class to try some more designs until about two or three o’clock when we had to leave. We had a decent design at this point and decided just to roll with what we had.

Now it is competition day at General Electric and we all wake up super early to get there before eight o’clock in the morning. We arrived and Lindsey made a whole new set of blades the previous night and brought them in. These blades hadn’t been tested yet so we took a huge risk and decided to roll with them anyway. Our group’s name, Cool Breeze, was called to the testing area and it was time to see how well the blades would perform. They were going great and then a gear came loose and one of our blades was hitting the stand causing the blades to spin slowly. At this point we had to make a few modifications to the stand but we didn’t have the parts. Therefore, Jacob and I made a last second run to Lowe’s where we picked up a mini saw and some new connections to extend the blades out so they would not hit the base. We made it back to GE just in time to fix the design. We tested the blades and they were our best design by far generating about 280 miliwatts of power. Our previous designs maxed out at about 180 miliwatts.

For the next part of the competition we had to give a presentation to a few judges on our journey through building our wind turbine and answer the judge’s questions on knowledge about wind. Our presentation went very well because every one of the group members knew different facts about wind. The judges asked questions that tested our knowledge of offshore wind, cost to implement wind turbines, and how to determine the correct number of blades to be used on a wind turbine. By the end of our presentation the judges commented, “It’s like you are already part of our industry.” Once the judge said that, we all knew that the presentation had gone perfectly.

Finally, it is time for the results. We were all very nervous. There are teams that have been working on their designs for the better part of an entire year and we had just started this project two weeks ago. The odds were definitely against us. We had already seen the other groups test their designs and some generate over 600 miliwatts of power, way more than us. Third place is read off and it was a different Tec-Smart Team. At this point Lindsey whispered to me, “Christian there’s no way, theirs generated more power than ours.” I reassured her that we had a solid presentation and we still had a chance. Second place was called and when they said, “Team Cool Breeze,” we were all shocked and extremely happy all at the same time. All of
the long hours had finally paid off and we got to go up on stage and hold our big $300 check. This experience had its ups and downs but we are all extremely grateful for the opportunity to move on to compete at the Kid Wind competition in Chicago May 8-10.

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