Portland Middle School Students explore Wind Blade Design

Left: Paul Williamson from the Maine Wind Industry Initiative works with King Middle School students to refine blade design. Right: King Middle School students test and refine their wind blade designs

85 students from the King Middle School produced their versions of innovative wind blade design today. The students are exploring the physics and engineering of wind blade design through expedition learning. This is part of an entire program to learn about renewable energy issues. 

Paul Williamson from the Maine Wind Industry Initiative (MWII) partnered with teacher Gus Goodwin to present a hands on learning project that allowed the students to design and create their own sets of wind blades. Students learned about the three basic elements of wind blade design: profile, Airfoil & Bernoulli's Principle, and pitch. Students also learned that the same elements that drive a wind turbine are those that allow airplanes to fly and sailing vessels to sail.  

In teams of three, students then created their own versions of wind blades carving efficient airfoil shaped blades from foam blocks provided by Harbor Technologies in Brunswick, Maine. The Student teams then tested the performance of the blade on test stands with a given wind source. Teams were able to make improvements to their blades while testing. 

“Wind blade design is really just a fantastic vehicle for the exploration of many STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) related principles.” according to Paul Williamson. “This activity really allows the students to use those principles to use their own hands and creativity to produce a working model. It also helps them to understand broader issues related to wind energy. ” 

Titled Mini Wind Blade Challenge, the activity is a preliminary  step in learning more about advanced wind blade design. “This is a part of a series of expedition learning that we have been doing around green and renewable energy” Said Gus Godwin. “We will be taking the next step in forming a team to compete in the Maine Wind Blade Challenge.”  

The Maine Wind Blade Challenge is a competition hosted in partnership with the Maine Composites Alliance, MWII and the University of Maine. On April 27 King Middle School will be one of the first two middle schools to compete in the event that until now has only involved high school students. Old Orchard will be the other middle school competing. The wind blades designed for that event will be fully developed advanced composite structures incorporating the principles learned at King Middle School today.