Schenectady County

School teams show design skills at GE’s KidWind event

More than 100 students from 18 different upstate New York schools participated Saturday in the wind
Mohonasen students Brandon Moore, left, and Josh Karg, both 16-year-old juniors, describe their wind turbine during the KidWind Challenge at GE in Schenectady on Saturday.
Mohonasen students Brandon Moore, left, and Josh Karg, both 16-year-old juniors, describe their wind turbine during the KidWind Challenge at GE in Schenectady on Saturday.

Brandon Moore is looking for a job. Maybe not right now, but when the Mohonasen junior sends out that first job application, don’t be surprised if it’s addressed to the General Electric Co. here in Schenectady.

“Absolutely,” said Moore, who along with classmate Joshua Karg finished third in the high school division of the KidWind Challenge Saturday at GE’s Building 53, earning the pair a trip to New Orleans for the national competition in May. “As a kid who’s been interested in engineering my whole life, I want to be here, all day, every day.”

More than 100 students from 18 different upstate New York schools participated in the wind turbine design competition, held at the GE campus for the second year in a row. Moore and Karg also finished third in last year’s event, while Broadalbin-Perth pulled off a repeat victory in the middle school division.

“This is an entirely different group, so it’s extraordinary and unexpected,” said seventh and eighth-grade science teacher Cindy Sengenberger, who coached the B-P team named Turbinators, one of three from that school in the competition. “They began working on it the beginning of February, and we get a lot of support from the administration. We actually got a wind tunnel purchased for us, so the school district has been fantastic.”

The Turbinators, all middle school students at B-P, are Antonio Zevola, Emily Macfarlane, Avery Fenton, Patrick Nellis, Benjamin Nellis, Emmaleigh Clouser, Dominique Castelluccio and Maria Meola. The Mohonasen team was just a two-man job, but Moore and Karg had been thinking about Saturday’s event since finishing third last year.

“I’ve been interested in science since I took my first engineering course in seventh grade,” said Karg. “We were happy finishing third last year because we didn’t know what to expect. We’ve been thinking about it the whole time, and four or five months ago we began the thought process of a new design. We started building our styro splicer three months ago, and we made 12 blades and used six.”

Karg and Moore had to make a verbal presentation in front of three judges, and then after a break for lunch, their wind turbine was given a test. Things went pretty well, and while Saturday’s competition was great fun, Moore says he has other goals than just being an engineer. He wants to be a pilot.

“I want to be an aviator, but I’m going to be an engineer first and work on wind turbines and figure out how they work and how best to design them,” he said. “Working on this project with Josh has been great fun, but eventually my main goal in life is to fly.”

Maya Ravi is a 13-year-old Guilderland resident and an eighth grader at Albany Academy for Girls, which had teams finishing second and third behind B-P in the middle school division. She also wants to be an engineer.

“We’ve been working on this project since the beginning of the school year,” she said. “We had a practice competition at school and we had one of the three best teams. After doing this project, I am very much considering becoming an engineer. I mostly like building things and coming up with new ideas. I’m all about change and improving things.”

‘Hands-on’ education

KidWind is a national not-for-profit organization whose mission is as follows: “To provide effective hands-on learning resources that bring renewable energy education to teachers and their students worldwide.” GE has been involved in sponsoring the event for two years, and along with the financial contribution provides employees who volunteer and act as coaches for the different student teams.

“We had a network of teachers we reached out to, and we hosted an event for all the school superintendents in the area,” said J.D. Brannock, who was also in charge of overseeing all of Saturday’s event. “We told them what we were doing, we encouraged them to participate, and we got around 34 schools last year. It was pretty popular, and this year we didn’t do much outreach because most of the schools came to us directly.”

Chris Schmitt, who has worked at GE for 16 years as an engineer, was a coach for the Albany Academy girls.

“There are definitely some young Edisons and Steinmetzes here,” said Schmitt, referring to the two scientific geniuses prominent in the early success of GE more than 100 years ago. “This one team actually used additive manufacturing and made their own gears, so they had a computer-driven plastic deposition printer donated to the school. That’s pretty cutting edge stuff, so it’s amazing what these kids are coming up with.”

Kayla Montayne, a teacher at Albany Academy for Girls, took little credit for the success of her three teams in the competition.

“Oh my gosh, absolutely not,” she said. “This is a completely student-driven project and that’s the best part about it. The girls dreamed it, they designed it, and then together we all built it. It was truly a team effort.”

Rebecca Shea, a physics teacher, is in her first year at Mohonasen and said her tandem of Moore and Karg needed little prompting.

“They came to me with everything already prepared, and asked me if I would be willing to be their coach,” she said. “They really took the lead in everything, and I just made sure they met all the requirements set up by GE and KidWind. I’m way beyond impressed with these two. The whole scientific design process was all theirs. They are inspired.”

Also in the competition were three teams from Forest Park Elementary School in the South Colonie School District.

“We had 15 teams of fourth graders compete at our school and we brought the three best here,” said Jim Brown, a fourth-grade teacher at the school. “They had a great opportunity to build and create, and they all had a great time doing it.”

That was the general idea according to Anne McEntee, president and CEO of GE’s onshore wind business.

“Our hope is that competitions like this, along with the support of parents and teachers throughout the region, will help inspire all these local students to continue developing skills in critical fields like science, technology, engineering and math,” she said. “I encourage you all to dream big. We at GE are big supporters of hands-on learning for kids and schools, so that they can see real applications of math and science.”

“I don’t think you’re tomorrow’s leaders, I think you’re today’s leaders,” U.S. Congressman Paul Tonko told the group at Saturday’s introduction ceremony. “You’re all winners. You’re not impacted by tradition and habit like we are, so we’re counting on you to come up with all the new ideas. “

The Rome chapter of the Loving Education at Home school won the high school division, followed by Clean Technology and Sustainable Industries of Malta.

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