Marshwood High students compete in UMaine Windstorm Challenge

May 6, 2013
From Seacoastonline

SOUTH BERWICK, Maine — The 11 Marshwood High School students attending the 2013 University of Maine Windstorm Challenge at the Orono campus Friday reported having a great time in their quest to build and test a model floating wind turbine platform, said Marshwood science teacher Sara Cathie.

“It was extremely engaging, exciting — it’s a really professional experience for them,” Cathie said. “They did great — it was a great learning experience for them and they’re charged up again for next year.”

The goal of the project was to create stable platforms that don’t bounce, she added. There is an accelerometer that measured the movement on the three axes.

Forty-five middle and high schools from Maine participate in the yearly competition that challenges students to design and construct a floating platform for a scale model wind turbine, and deliver a business plan and sales pitch to a panel of expert judges, Cathie said.

Teams are critiqued on the technical feasibility and aesthetic design of their platform and the quality of their presentation. It encourages an interdisciplinary approach to solving large problems.

Students spoke enthusiastically about the experience.

Freshman Charlie Honkonen said he liked being in the pool and seeing all the other people’s designs and getting ideas for next year.

“It really introduced me to the world of engineering for wind turbines and that whole environmental idea,” he said. “It was a big design process; we had to really go through a lot of tests, ideas, theories that didn’t work — some did. We went through a lot of building and rebuilding and testing and not working.”

“There were 45 teams competing and we actually did really well, much better than we expected, honestly,” said sophomore Griffin Simmons. “Our presentation was really solid and our preparation was a lot better than last year, and our windmill design did a lot better in the test in the pool than we expected it to do.

“Of all the platforms tested, ours was the third most stable as measured by the gyroscope or sensors,” he added. “I’m surprised and I’m really happy. For next year we’re going to recycle some key elements, probably the design concept and the principle it works on.”

Liam Williams, a spokesman for the other sophomore group, said it was a lot fun testing the platform in the pool. The design part was stressful because “we waited to the last minute to do it,” he said. “We designed quickly; we tossed out ideas, slowly worked up and finally came up with a final product and it worked well.”

Williams said he was pleased with their design because “our platform just looked more feasible than the other designs — our platform had a gyroscope in the middle.”

Cathie said there was no cost to attend the competition but she said she was thankful for a grant from the Marshwood Education Foundation that contributed funds for the supplies and transportation to the event.

This was the third annual Windstorm Challenge, which is part of a larger event that day that included the Annual Maine Composites Alliance Wind Blade Challenge.

The DeepCwind Consortium’s mission is to establish the state of Maine as a national leader in deepwater offshore wind technology through a research initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, the National Science Foundation-Partnerships for Innovation and others. For information, visit or