COLONIE – The South Colonie Central School District hosted this year’s KidWind Challenge, an industry-leading renewable energy design and construction student competition which encouraged renewable energy education in the classroom. The regional round was held Saturday, Mar. 18 at Sand Creek Middle School.
Middle school teams, including those from Sand Creek Middle School, Lansingburgh-Knickerbacker Middle School and Gloversville from this area, participated in the 10-team event.
The high-school division featured four teams from Indian River High School. Each participating team built a wind turbine. The students tested their turbines twice for power production in front of spectators, students, and judges. The turbines with the highest power production with the highest output won the event.
The winning teams earned a slot to take part in the national competition to be held in Boulder, Colorado in May.
Sand Creek Middle School The 2 Dominators team was the top winner in the middle school division. Indian River’s team Bob took second place and third place was Sand Creek’s Kidwind Kings.
Indian River High School, which entered all the teams in the high school division, will move forward with first-place team The Caterpillar and second place team Bob.
All the winning teams received a Lowe’s gift card. Honorary winners received one tech toy to share between team members.
“This year (the competition) has grown. We ended up picking up two new schools. We picked up a couple more teams. There are three other new districts: Lansingburgh, Gloversville, and Indian River,” retired Sand Creek technology teacher Raymond Pitcher said.
Pitcher served as a judge to measure the turbine effects on with computer sensors throughout the day. Originally from Burnt Hills and residing in Ilion, Pitcher’s first year of teaching technology was at Sand Creek Middle School many years ago and still holds a love for Colonie students. Pitcher, alongside current tech teacher Jim Brown, was one of many local key players who helped bring the KidWind challenge to Colonie.
“I’ve been an education consultant for 15 years, running one (event) in Utica, Pitcher said. “Colonie has always come out to it.”
According to Pitcher, because of Covid, the Utica event has not restarted, but he hopes they will. In past events in Utica 100 turbines and 30 schools would take part in KidWind.
“Next year, maybe Utica would be running it again and we will run both the Colonie and Utica to give kids double time with it,” he said.
Faculty advisor to Indian River Barry Dusharm and his teams made the three-hour drive from Northern New York to Colonie to take part. The event was the school’s closest option to take part in the challenge in New York. The program has been sponsored by KidWind for 15 years.
“We first got involved probably about 12 years ago and the greatest thing about this program is that we don’t need a huge amount of pre-knowledge,” Dusharm said. “You can walk into this with just basic knowledge, can you make the blades go around, and you’re absolutely accepted by the program.”
Dusharm’s teams showcased various types of turbines, including one that demonstrated the Venturi effect.
“They built four projects each year. In the spring, we always build wind turbines because we know that the KidWind competition is coming up,” he said.
If the turbines that don’t perform well in the beginning, the organizers allow the teams to fix them or to do some tweaks so every team is going to be successful, Dusharm added.
“Nobody is going to end up failing because of a mechanical malfunction.” he said.
Dusharm’s high school’s team did well. The output from their turbine was higher at the Colonie event than it was at home.
“There were five designs, no two of them were remotely similar. It represents five different groups going in five different directions,” Dusharm said. “Nobody’s playing following the leader on these all. I’m quite proud of their innovations.”
South Colonie 7/8 STEM Teacher and on-site energy manager, Jim Brown, was on hand making sure everything was running smoothly. Brown, who has taught at Colonie for 27 years, was influential in bringing the KidWind challenge to Colonie last year and again, this year.
“The competition lets you use all of your skills across all different disciplines to be able to pull the pieces together to build a presentation and to build a turbine,” Brown said.
Colonie first participated in the KidWind challenge with a fourth grade team in 2012. In 2020, students had to compete in regional events remotely and the students who qualified for the challenge in 2021, competed in the national competition virtually.
Two Colonie teams made it to the national level that twice placed near the top at the U.S at the middle school level, and most recently, the school’s team was named national champion. In 2021, another Raiders’ team made it to Nationals and was ranked in the top 10 spots.
The young competitors were interested in science, wind science, and engineering. They’re very excited to compete in nationals and look forward to checking out other competitor’s designs. The lessons that the winners learned from competing were the need for more team work and not to give up if a mistake is made.
“As much as it is a competition, they do help each other. They keep each other kind of motivated to keep going even though it’s a competition, they are all motivating each other,” Brown said.