Team Mr. WindWide – Amory, Dylan, Izzy, Katie, and Townsend – and their teachers Jennifer and Maggie traveled to San Antonio, Texas, for the national KidWind Competition in mid-May. After three days of preparing, testing, taking part in challenges, and presenting to the judges, Team Mr. WindWide walked away with the Rookie of the Year award for impressive first-year team! As the first group in North Branch’s history to take a field trip that involved airfare, five days of hotel rooms and meals out, tours, and ground transportation, the team needed the support of their classmates, their families, the North Branch School community, and many people, businesses, and organizations in the broader community. THANK YOU to everyone who shared words of encouragement and/or donated to make this experience possible for these students. Keep scrolling to read about the trip in the words of the students and teachers.
KidWind National Competition – Teachers: Jennifer Page and Maggie Buchanan
North Branch School team, Mr. Windwide, had the opportunity to travel to Texas and compete in the National KidWind Competition. This was a huge opportunity for our students, and they made the most of it, in every way.
When we first walked into the Henry B. Gonzalez Convention Center, we were struck by the size of the space and the numbers of people. There were 3 large, very professional, wind tunnels set up for the Collegiate Competition, and about 60 tables set up for all of the elementary, middle, and high school teams to have as work spaces. Across the room was a stage and chairs for presentations and the Quizbowl, and a large water tank for the Hydro Turbine Challenge. In the words of the students, “We were more relaxed about the number of people at the competition and the size of the space in the convention hall because the Regional and State championships prepared us for all the people who were there. Other teams didn’t seem intimidating and were friendly. Since we had done the presentation so well before, we felt like ‘we’ve got this!’”
Looking at other teams’ turbine designs was inspirational and gave the students new ideas. We got to watch some of the college teams testing their designs, and to talk to students from both Virginia Tech and James Madison University. Our students collaborated well in solving design problems, and they worked very independently, asking their coaches for help only occasionally when they needed something very specific.
Because they had worked more on their turbine design, the team had more things to share during their presentation to the judges . They had also decided it would be better if each of them talked about something different. Due to working on the gear system all morning, they hadn’t practiced a lot, but in talking about the presentation, here are some things the students said afterward. “Once we started talking though, we knew what we wanted to say, and it all just clicked. We talked about the gears, and the problem-solving we did with that. One of the judges seemed interested in the unique inertia concept that we had in our design, and said, “Oh, I’ve never seen it done before in Kidwind.” That felt good. They were also interested to know how we worked as a team.
How KidWind Affected Us – Dylan Butler, 13
When we were first invited to the national competition, I remember it feeling like a firework had been set off amongst our group; all I could hear were cheers and gasps of disbelief. …but that disbelief and wonder soon faded once we heard how much it would cost just to send one of us there. It seemed impossible to send one person, let alone seven, but even though we knew the chances of us going were slim we continued to work, study, and be innovative. I remember the day our teacher walked in with a grin on her face and announced to us that there had been enough money raised to send all of us to Texas. …I was left speechless, wondering who in the world would help send random kids to Texas to hopefully create something great that will hopefully help preserve our planet one day.
While at the competition we experienced productive failure along with much success with our design and our team’s ability to cooperate with each other. We took away from the competition significantly higher confidence levels and things that we would like to improve about ourselves that will help guide us to a better future. I loved this trip and I hope future teams from North Branch will get the chance to experience KidWind as well. …thank you for giving us this life changing opportunity.
Opportunities for Problem-Solving – Townsend Stumpf, 14
During the competition, we had a lot of trial and error. When we first got there, we noticed that a lot of the teams’ turbines had a lot more gears than us and a more significant gear ratio, where we only had two gears with a ratio of 1:8. On the first night, one of our team members stayed up late to rebuild our gear system. The next day when we tested our new design, there was a lot of friction and the blades were not turning as fast. We tried lining the gears up more and making other parts even as well, but it was still the same. In the end, we changed it back and it worked a lot better.
On the first day when we were doing unofficial testing in the different tunnels, we learned that tunnel 4, the fastest, was indeed very fast. Our turbine kept falling back towards the fan. To fix this, we added duct tape to the hinge joints to keep the turbine from falling. When we put the turbine back into the tunnel, it fell again… The same teammate that worked on the gears made a support beam with a shock absorber. This was made out of a PVC pipe, a bit of a pool noodle, duct tape, little wooden skewers, and copper wiring. We added it to the back of our turbine to make sure it would not fall back. When we tested it, we saw that our turbine did not shake as much as it usually did and was good support to keep the turbine from falling. These were the two big problems that we faced.
Testing in the Wind Tunnels – Katie Lanahan, 12
At the KidWind challenge we had to test our turbine in wind tunnels.
In the low tunnel when we changed our pitch to -15° we only got 4.41 joules. Then we thought making the pitch more steep would help so we did -20° and got 4.67 joules. We thought that if we had made it even more steep it would produce more joules. So we did -25° as our pitch next but that gave us our least amount of joules which was 3.33. Then with the most annoying tunnel, the high one, it took us a while for our turbine to not fall down because the wind was so strong. We did two tests with -15° and got 54.93 joules and 54.65 joules. Then we did -10° one time and got 54.68 joules.
The Instant Challenges – Izzy Valenzuela, 13
[In] the Instant Hydro Challenge…we had to build a water-powered turbine that would spin fast while fast water was coming down on it. For this challenge we had limited materials and only 45 minutes to make it. Everyone in our group had ideas for how to make the turbine. We tested some of those ideas. We worked together to make each design.
Then we also had a challenge called the Instant Solar Challenge in which we had to make things like series, parallel and combination circuits. We walked into the room thinking we had this because we did a review beforehand. But we only got one of four combinations done. We struggled to find ways to connect them. We tried multiple times and just could not get it. Later on at the awards ceremony, we learned that the challenge was hard for a lot of other people too.
I think the challenges that we did at KidWind definitely helped us work better as a team and stay calm under stress. And I think this will definitely benefit us all in the future when working with a team or group of people.
Exploring the City of San Antonio – Amory Harris, 13
Before and after KidWind we had a lot of time to explore the city. San Antonio is a very old city, so we had many historic places to visit. One of these places is one of the things San Antonio is most known for: the Alamo. We spent a lot of time in the main church and we all got to look over the names of those killed in battle. Outside of the Alamo there was a garden with a fountain, trees, and lots of shade.
There’s also a very old cathedral in the area, named San Fernando Cathedral. This cathedral actually contains the remains of Davy Crockett. It also has a very large altar with a lot of gold paint. Just as expected, there were also many beautiful stained glass windows.
We also visited a lot of newer places, like the Riverwalk… The art garden was one of the newer installations, and we saw a few of the pieces. We also went down to the Historic Market Square or Mexican Market. In the market we saw a lot of Mexican shops, including a bakery. Overall, exploring the city of San Antonio was a perfect way to spend our time outside of the competition and we all learned a lot about history and what life is like in a big city.