A “Whirlwind” Of A Day For Maine Students Competing In Orono

Caitlin Burchill

Updated 12 months ago

It was a blustery day at UMaine as more than 500 students from York to Aroostook County competed in two windy challenges.The Advanced Structures and Composite Center hosted its annual windstorm and wind blade challenges.”Five years ago, we started this event as an opportunity for students to work through STEM education, to explore composite manufacturing, as well as alternative energy,” said Paul Williamson, Director of the Maine Ocean and Wind Industry Initiative. “Were asked to design either a floating base or you can design a wind blade and then we just test it and see how much voltage we can put out,” said Emma Michalowski, a senior at Presque Isle High School.And the more voltage the better.Teams of students were judged on their turbine as well as a presentation of their design.”It didn’t tip. It didn’t sink. It didn’t fall over. That’s good and the presentation went well too,” said Ben Ezzy, a freshman at Caribou High School. “I thought it was a really neat idea to have the wind turbines out in the ocean and I thought it would be really cool getting one that actually goes out to sea one day,” said Kate Finnemore, one of Ezzy’s partners. In a science world dominated by men, some Presque Isle ladies led the way.”Being an all girls group, it was kind of difficult and the guys group definitely underestimated us because we’re all girls and we made the blade all pretty and they’re like, you’re not going to do that well, but we beat them,” said senior advance physics student Amanda Bennett. They even beat a third Presque Isle Team made up of future engineering students.”We thought the design was sound, but there was some sort of issue that we didn’t predict. Rather ironically our blade was named ‘The Winner,’” said senior Gabe Player. While the winners of the competition win a paid internship if they attend UMaine, the hands on experience was good for all students.”They’re learning the modern 21st century learning expectations.They’re getting excited about science they’re learning that its fun and it has a career path,” said Kierston Foley Donovan, advanced physics teacher at Presque Isle High School. Results for the Wind Blade Challenge: 1st place- Freeport Team 2 2nd place- Easton High School  3rd place- Freeport High School 1 Peoples Choice- Foster Technology Center located at Mount Blue High School  Teacher of the year- Dan Lemieux from Spruce Mt. High in Jay Composite Partner of the year- Southern Maine Community College Andrew SchoenbergResults for the Windstorm challenge:Stability3rd Place – Marshwood HS2nd Place – Caribou Middle School1st Place – Bath Regional Career and Technical CenterPresentation3rd Place – King Middle School2nd Place – Marshwood High School1st Place – Noble High SchoolOverall winners:3rd Place – Freeport High School2nd Place – Traip Academy1st Place – Old Town High SchoolFirst place Windstorm Challenge teams from each category have been awarded an internship at the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center valued at over $20,000, contingent upon their enrollment at the University of Maine.


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