Duct tape saved the day.
Three teams of Boardman students participated in the KidWind Challenge, a national program to teach the benefits and mechanics of wind energy. The students designed and built miniature wind turbines, and Saturday they gathered at Riverside Junior-Senior High School, Boardman, to test their creations in a wind tunnel and find out what kind of power they could generate.
The four large fans in the tunnel sucked a few turbines completely off the ground. The strong bonds of duct tape, though, allowed students another — and better — go of it.
Loli Jacquez and Rodrigo Guzman, sixth graders at Windy River Elementary, Boardman, built their turbine sturdy enough to withstand the force of the tunnel. Their teacher, Katrina Bretsch, said the pair used a carpet dryer to try out the turbine.
Bretsch said her whole class took part in the hands-on learning about wind power through kits she supplied, but the two boys joined up as Team Voltage to enter the competition. They were the youngest team there, and Bretsch said the pair committed plenty of hours after school to the project.
Loli’s mother, Betty Jarrette, said her son even forsook athletics to build the turbine.
“Once he’s dedicated himself to something, he’s going 100 percent for it,” she said.
Team Donovon, a group of five high school juniors and seniors, had a worrisome moment when its turbine crashed after the wind started. Team leader Donovon Carmack rebuilt the fan, and the team went to the duct tape to keep the turbine in place. The second time was a success.
Martin Chavez, a junior, said he and his two partners put in about 24 hours to make their turbine and saw how it worked with a box fan, but the wind tunnel was a big difference. The duct tape, he said, was pretty important.
Students connected their turbines to a computer system that read their power output in milliwatts and displayed that on a large screen. Unofficial results pegged Chavez’s turbine as the biggest power producer. A pair of wind turbine engineers also were on hand to meet with teams after their tunnel trials to provide feedback and tips on improving designs and performance.
Jon Roschke of Portland is regional director for the KidWind Project. He led a workshop in January to kickoff the challenge. He said winning teams have the opportunity to compete at a national event and industry trade show in Anaheim, California. Last year’s was in New Orleans and drew 53 teams.
While that’s exciting, Roschke said, the KidWind Challenge is about providing real-world education in science, technology, engineering and mathematics. Students learn, for example, that while the power the turbines produce is immediate, delivering that as energy is another matter.
This was the first KidWind event in Boardman, Roschke said, and credited local sponsors Avangrid and EDP Renewables for making the whole thing possible. He added challenges have been going in some northwest communities for years, including in Ellensburg, Washington, and in Newport, which branched out to cover other forms of renewable energy. He said his goal is to broaden the event to include teams from Irrigon and Hermiston.