Wind Team hopes to blow away the competition

The RAHS Wind Team’s turbine awaits its upcoming trials at the Collegiate Wind Competition in Chicago.
Photo by: Zak Sleeth

Wind team is upping the ante by taking their turbine to Chicago to prepare for collegiate-level competitions. While they won’t technically be competing, the team will travel to the Collegiate Wind Competition on 7 May through the 10th in order to test their turbine for a consistent power output under the same conditions as the college teams, and to present their progress to the Department of Energy.

Although the higher level competition will be much more challenging, Junior Tom Connolly feels the team will benefit from the surplus of high-quality materials to test their turbines.

“I am really interested to see how the turbine will perform in a real wind tunnel because we haven’t really had the opportunity to test it,” said Connolly. “It would be nice to compare ourselves to the college teams to see how much we have achieved.”

Junior Cooper LeComp, a founding member of the team, is enthusiastic to see how their turbine will compare to the college level teams. They have been working diligently to prepare for the competition.

“We are constantly working on making upgrades to the turbine to improve power output and optimize controlling systems,” said LeComp. “The tolerances are very high for the turbine, so getting everything to function properly is hard work.”

To help handle all that hard work, their team is divided into collaborative groups, each to handle different components of the project. Even though they are separated, they are all working hard together to learn about the different technical skills required to work on the turbine.

“Typically these collegiate teams are done by groups of students at colleges in degree fields applicable to the turbine (Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, etc.),” said LeComp.  “Since we are not in those programs yet, we have had to build up understanding on the properties applicable to the turbine including electrical circuits, mechanical design, manufacturing techniques, etc.”

Connolly feels he has benefited greatly from the work the team has done. Their bold attempt to catch up to the college teams’ knowledge on the task pushes them to work more efficiently.

“I‘ve learned a lot about how to use different pieces of software,” said Connolly. “I‘ve learned how to design complex mechanical systems and I‘ve also been able to interact with mentors a lot more than I would otherwise.”

Because they have these supportive mentors, students are able to tackle topics they have little to no prior experience with; sophomore Jon Wick was up for the challenge.

“I have learned so much about electronics,” added Wick, “I had never done anything like that before, but they needed someone to do it so I said I‘d do it.”

The team was formed after student success in the Kid Wind Competition. Connolly agreed that this was the natural next move.

“I really enjoyed the Kid Wind competition, and a lot of our teams were successful at the competition,” said Connolly. “We decided that we wanted to move beyond Kid Wind and this seemed like the next step.”

Exposure to new fields of study is very valuable to a student’s academic career. Sophomore Jeremy Boyle thinks that this team has shown him a new angle to approach a field he was already interested in.

“I‘m interested in aerospace engineering and a lot of the stuff that I’m doing with the blades; involving the fluid technetics and the forces are similar,” said Boyle, “which makes it a good fit.”

Due to the timing of the trip and its close proximity to AP testing, on the 7th, the team will not be gone for long. However, their time there should be very revealing about the status of the team, and the payoff of all their hard work.

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