Students tackle wind blade design and fabrication

Sumner Memorial High School — with a design that generated 24.99W — repeated as the event's winners at the Maine Composites Alliance's annual wind blade design challenge competition.

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The University of Maine’s (UMaine, Orono, Maine) AEWC Advanced Structures and Composite Center announced the completion of the 2nd Annual Maine Wind Blade Challenge, a competition initiated by the Maine Composites Alliance (MCA) in 2008 to encourage high school teachers and students to explore the use of advanced composite materials in wind energy. This year’s competition drew 40 teams, totaling more than 220 students, and attracted a crowd of nearly 500 observers. Competing high school teams registered with MCA and received a standard kit of composite materials provided though industry donations. Each team then designed what its members believe is the most efficient wind blade within the material use requirements established by the competition rules.

After designing and shaping foam cores or plugs for the blades, the students then traveled to a composite manufacturing company or composite technology learning institute to work with professional composite technicians to infuse their blades. This step exposed them to a “real-world” work environment and provided experience with advanced molding processes. Participating businesses, says MCA, were able to develop relationships with the future workforce, local teachers and schools. The student teams then were required to provide a short presentation to a panel of judges to illustrate their R&D process. In addition to the students’ presentation, the competition scoring was based on the total power produced during a three-minute test and the peak wattage recorded during the testing.

Chris Pickering and Blaine West of Sumner Memorial High repeated as the event’s highest performers for 2010 with a maximum wattage of 24.99. A Mount Desert Island team — Rebecca Peterson, Sophia Krevans and Emily Dunbar — finished second, while Finn Hanson, Myles Achey and Beata Hechtova from Forest Hills High in Jackman came in third.

The Maine Wind Blade Challenge is now working with national organizations and businesses to expand the competition. Complete Challenge final results and additional information are available at www.mainewindbladechallenge.com.