August 31, 2011

Students test their wind tower designs at UMaine

Students from high schools and middle schools came to the University of Maine to participate in the third annual Maine Wind Blade Challenge and the first DeepCwind Consortium’s Windstorm Challenge last May. This is the only event of its kind in the world; it is completely unique to Maine, because of the research being developed here — at the University of Maine.

Dr. Habib Dagher, director of the Advanced Structures and Composites Center, has been promoting the Center’s expertise at UMaine to develop floating offshore wind farms for Maine and around the world. His comprehensive plans for Maine could generate 15,000 jobs directly involved in wind technology.

“The University of Maine is working very closely to educate students from K-12 and at the undergraduate and graduate level. Over 300 students came, representing 65 teams with 40 teachers,” said Dagher. “It was a very exciting event. Two students that won the competition received a $50,000 scholarship to come and work in our laboratory at the university.”

Acceptance of the internship award requires enrollment at the University of Maine and entails four years of work at the Advanced Structures and Composites Center.

This is the first year the two wind-energy design challenges have been combined. Gov. John E. Baldacci was present during the first Wind Blade Challenge and saw the initiative as a way to spark the interest in students in the growing industry.

The Wind Blade Challenge partnered high school teams with Maine advanced composites manufacturers to research, design, and manufacture model wind blades. Each team competed to generate the most energy over a two-minute period, and their presentations illustrating their research, design, and engineering processes were judged.

The Windstorm Challenge asked teams of middle and high school students to design and construct a floating platform for a scale-model wind turbine and deliver a business plan and sales pitch to a panel of expert judges. Teams were critiqued on technical feasibility and aesthetic design of their platform, as well as the quality of their sales pitch.

“This is where students from around Maine have an opportunity to experience a taste of what a career in this industry could be,” said Dagher. “The next generation gets it. Energy prices are going up; we live it everyday. It’s pinching our wallet; we have to find other energy sources, and they are here in Maine. We will be able to keep the dollars in Maine, generate the electricity from Maine resources, generate jobs in Maine, and keep our costs down — we all win.”

Wind Blade Challenge results: Jay High School placed 1st; Region 10 Technical School in Brunswick placed 2nd; Westbrook High School placed 3rd.

Windstorm Challenge results: Team “Ace of Spades” from the Maine School of Science and Mathematics placed 1st; Team “Floating Ducks” from Mt. Blue High School placed 2nd; and “Team Syracuse” from Lake Region High School placed 3rd.