RAHS students blown away to the Windy City

Wind team stands in front of wind tunnel at the collegiate competition in Chicago.
Photo Courtesy of: Mr. McComb

Wind Team has been a part of RAHS for almost 2 years now, gearing up for the bi-annual collegiate Wind Turbine Competition. They were unable to compete in the competition, however, because they were a high school team and not a collegiate team. That being said, the team still attended the competition in order to test their turbine and to learn more about wind energy.

RAHS junior and Wind Team member Oliver Low was still excited about attending the competition even if his team wasn’t able to compete.

“While we aren’t able to actually compete due to being a high school team,” said Low, “we are grateful for the opportunity to demonstrate our turbine in front of the collegiate competition, and show them how far our design has gone over the years.”

Over the past two years the group has done much in preparation for this competition, however this is not the first collegiate wind competition that the group has gone to. Low went to Denver, Colorado last year for a smaller competition along with many other members of the team.

“We actually went to Denver last year to demonstrate our turbine in a smaller-scale collegiate wind competition,” said Low.

The Chicago competition has been a goal of Wind Team for a long time. Junior Cooper LeComp enjoyed competing in the freshmen science KidWind project with science teacher Scott McComb, ending up going to the national KidWind competition. After this, he was inspired to go for the collegiate competition.

“Wind Team started in my freshman year when a group of us went to KidWind Nationals,” said LeComp. “We did really well, getting [1st] place, so we decided to step it up, and build a turbine to the specifications of the Collegiate Wind Competition.”

The team, with McComb as their advisor, has learned a lot; everything that the team has made has had to have been made by them. This has taught the team skills from everything from electrical engineering to aerodynamics.

“We have learned a lot,” said McComb. “I personally have learned about electrical systems, control systems, mechanical engineering, and project management. These are valuable skills to have.”

Although the team has learned a lot on their own, they couldn’t have gotten where they are without their mentors and McComb.

“The support of Mr. McComb and our mentors have led us to our success,” said LeComp. “Being able to communicate and learn from experienced individuals from industry has been very beneficial.”

McComb was the one who originally organized the team as a zero hour class for students at the school. In 2016, teams from RAHS and McComb went to the Kidwind national competition in New Orleans, Louisiana where they saw the collegiate challenge taking place at the same time.

“We saw the collegiate wind teams testing in the larger wind tunnels with their business plans,” said McComb,” and the comment then was ‘that doesn’t look so hard, we should totally do that,’ [and] so we did.”

Once the team had come back they decided to create a team for the collegiate Wind Challenge, which began in the 2016-17 school year as a part of the Pre-Engineering Technologies zero hour course.

“We came back and started a wind team,” said McComb. “We had 14 students last year, [and] we had 12 this year working to create a wind turbine to the specifications of the collegiate wind challenge.”

Because they were a group of highschoolers trying out for a collegiate challenge, McComb had to seek an invitation from the Collegiate organization to come to Chicago and take part in the event.

“We were not officially invited to Chicago until February,” said McComb. “After we won nationals, and we decided internally that we would try to compete in the collegiate wind challenge.

McComb has witnessed the team do real work to solve a real world problem and make real progress doing it.

“As a teacher, it’s always thrilling,” said McComb. “It was very very exciting, and to see the level of sophistication, and the level of thought that had gone into it. We had documentation that Oliver had prepared, and that we didn’t end up using, but knowing that we had it just, it felt like real work.”

Over the course of two years, Wind team decided to take an idea and transform it to a team of 12 people who worked hard in order to build a complex turbine and take it to a competition halfway across the country.

“The most exciting part for me was that I got watch a group of student take an idea and change it from nothing, into something sophisticated and real,” said McComb.” We can solve technological problems when we put our minds to it.”

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