Virtual Wind Farm Competition Energizes Students
Submitted by Bryan Roy
Utilizing the winds from Lake Ontario, students created an efficient wind farm that accounted for the area’s population density, proximity to high voltage power lines, road access, and even the migration patterns of birds. Sizing and placing wind turbines in Oswego County was part of a Virtual Wind Farm Competition that challenged the students to explore the technical and sociological issues with wind energy. Students at the Edenwald School on the Mount Pleasant Cottage School campus “found participating in the contest to be a fun activity while increasing their awareness of how a wind farm can produce electrical power” according to their technology teacher, Frank Voltaggio.
The Virtual Wind Farm Contest is partially funded by more than $50,000 through the New York State Energy Research and Development Authority’s (NYSERDA) School Power...Naturally program, which is designed to educate about renewable energy and the role it can play in providing clean energy for our homes, schools, and workplaces. Though the contest has ended, the Virtual Wind Farm Webpage at
has all resource materials for the contest activity that were developed by New West Technologies, LLC. This page also includes a link to the NYS Virtual Wind Farm Tool that can be used in any classroom or lesson.
In addition to designing the wind farm, the students explained the factors that influenced their location and design decisions then conducted an outreach activity to raise their community’s awareness of wind power generation. Raymond Pitcher at Herkimer High School found that this “gave the students an opportunity to look at the positive and negative effects that wind technology has on a community”. Outreach activity components produced by students included posters, a letter to the governor, and wind power information webpages.
Contest submissions were scored based on the efficiency of the virtual wind farm and quality of the design synopsis and outreach component. Contest judges included industry representatives from Horizon Wind Energy and NorthWind & Power. The best entries for Level II Middle School and Level III High School Divisions had the highest total when combining scores from all three contest components. Contest awards for the top submissions included a classroom visit by a wind power specialist from NorthWind &
Power (http://www.northwindandpower.com), Wind Energy Kits from the Kidwind Project (http://kidwind.org), and Wind Wisdom Kits by the Northeast Sustainable Energy Association (http://nesea.org).
"I teach kids who face challenges beyond what most students face. Interactive, computer based, competitive activities with real world applications definitely ignites interest," said Dave Reling, a teacher at Pioneer High School.
2010 Virtual Wind Contest Winners:
Middle School (Level II):MPCS/Edenwald School, Pleasantville, NY
High School (Level III):Herkimer High School, Herkimer, NY
A poster developed by Herkimer HS students to accompany their outreach about wind power
- School Power...Naturally : http://www.nyserda.ny.gov/Communities-and-Governments/K-12-Schools/School-Power-Naturally
- KidWind Project, The : http://kidwind.org/
- Northeast Sustainable Energy Association : http://nesea.org/