Not long ago, Northumberland Middle School students Izaak Hagy and Nathan Parker proved perhaps an unspoken hypothesis: Legos can have a practical use. And a competition-winning practical use at that.
That was the case when Legos were the building blocks for Parker and Hagy’s unique wind turbine that they entered into the KidWind Challenge in Virginia Beach last month.
When the turbine was tested in the wind tunnel with a load, it generated so much power that Remy Pangle, Associate Director of the Virginia Center for Wind Energy, called KidWind Founder Michael Arquin and asked him if anyone else’s turbine had ever made that much power in the challenge before.
Arquin’s response? No, not in the United States.
Parker and Hagy, representing the Northumberland Indians, won the competition in Virginia Beach in record-setting fashion.
And this coming Saturday, they aim to do it again when they head to Washington, D.C. for the first-ever National KidWind Challenge.
“Thinking like scientists, using the habits of scientists is what I’m so proud of them for doing.” said the boys’ coach, Gifted Resources teacher and KidWind trained WindSenator Jenny Dunaway. She pointed out that the project was 100 percent the work of Izaak and Nathan.
“This may impact what they choose to take with their college and higher learning career,” she said.
Parker and Hagy are part of the middle school’s Talented and Gifted Program.
Dunaway, noting that one of their theme-based units focused on a blade design activity for a wind turbine, said that the two boys’ interest and natural scientific engineering thinking “suited them perfectly” for the KidWind challenge.
While all competitors must use the same KidWind generator that comes in a kit, the drive train and blade design are “only limited by your imagination and creativity,” said Dunaway.
For their wind turbine, Parker and Hagy assembled Legos they had collected over time into a gear box that would work with the motor. They used a 12-to-1 gear ratio and a unique air foil design to out-power any other wind turbine ever featured in either the high or middles school divisions of the Kid Wind Challenges across the nation when they won in Virginia Beach.
For the national challenge, Dunaway said that the teammates have made one major adjustment by placing an addition onto the turbine that will help reduce drag.
“They say that it does increase the electricity they generate,” said Dunaway.
The students have also tweaked their Powerpoint presentation to better convey the scientific process that they used to build the turbine.
While expressing her pride in her two students, Dunaway also praised both Parker and Hagy’s parents for supporting their children’s interest and project.
The 2014 National KidWind Challenge will take place April 26 with $5,000 in total prizes.
During the national competition, Vernier Software and Technology’s probes will be used to measure energy output of the wind turbine.
Parker and Hagy comprise one of the 36 teams to qualify for the National KidWind Challenge.
The KidWind Project’s mission is to excite students about the promise and opportunities of renewable energy–specifically wind power–and its relationship to global climate change. The project also strives to foster opportunities for students to build, test, explore and understand wind energy technology at a manageable scale.
For more information about the KidWind Project, visit http://learn.kidwind.org/.
For more information about the 2014 National KidWind Challenge, visit http://challenge.kidwind.org/events/national/2014.