On Tuesday, July 16th, our NU Summer STEM Program was focused on Energy; what it is, the different types, and how we (humans) can gather and harness it. As part of this day, students learned about sustainable energy sources, such as solar power, hydro power, and wind energy. PhD students Chi Qiao and Andrew Summerfield, from Professor Andy Myers’ (CEE) Sustainable Structures Group, came in for the wind energy portion of the day.
After Andrew introduced the basics of energy, Chi talked about designing wind turbines to be resistant to hurricanes, which was particularly pertinent, as the general theme of this summer program has been urban resilience to hurricanes. After Andrew and Chi fielded student questions about their research in college, the students took part in a blade building and testing competition. Using between 1 and 8 blades, students were tasked with designing wind turbine blades out of cardboard and selecting the rotor length, in such a way that their design would lift a weight the fastest, indicating the most powerful design. The fastest wind turbine design, using four curved blades on short rotors, took a little under 5 seconds! It is important to remember that the engineering design process doesn’t stop after building one design, so even though some designs didn’t work so well (or at all) this first time, students have learned from their successes and failures and (if we had more time), would have made much better round 2 designs!