Windmill Challenge

Students in Waynesville Middle School’s STEM class recently participated in one of the MacGyver Challenges sponsored by Recharge Labs.  Student goals were to build a windmill using “scrap” parts to lift as much weight as possible. Projects scores were dependent on how many weights were lifted and the resourcefulness in the use of materials.  Recharge Labs was seeking windmill designs that were efficient and used fewer, less expensive materials while at the same time lifting a lot of weight.

Students in Amanda Wells’ STEM (science, technology, engineering, math) class used a limited amount of materials to design and build functioning windmill prototypes.  Their challenge was to use their models to convert wind into mechanical energy in order to lift a certain amount of weight (metal washers).  Using the engineering design process, the students conducted trials, changed variables, and worked to improve the performance of their windmills.  During the quantitative part of their project analysis, the students calculated the energy required to lift a cup of washers and determine the average power of their windmill as it lifted the mass.  When windmill prototypes were placed in front of a fan, students were very excited to see that what they designed and built could actually lift the weight of washers.

Some of WMS students were highlighted on the website for creating workable and efficient windmills with limited supplies.

Students not only learned to work and communicate as a team, but they learned about the engineering design process, and real-world issues that affect our world today – such as renewable energy.  STEM activities can be incorporated into any classroom, however, we are lucky in Haywood County to have our public middle schools designate a class specifically designed for students who want to research, problem solve, and engineer their ideas into reality.

Submitted by:  Karen Kreitzburg, Waynesville Middle School