By Julia Bachman
On April 6, 2019, from 9:00-2:00, the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI), located on the ECU Outer Banks Campus in Wanchese, NC, is hosting the Fourth Annual North Carolina Renewable Energy Challenge. CSI has partnered with KidWind, Jennette’s Pier and Appalachian State University for the NC qualifying event before the national KidWind competition. The overall goal of the national KidWind competition is to challenge students to design and construct a device that converts moving wind energy into electricity. In this year’s NC Renewable Energy Challenge, student teams will have the opportunity to compete in the wind, solar, or ocean current energy categories and present their end product to a panel of judges.
“The goal is to get students to engineer a device and troubleshoot along with getting them interested in alternative energies,” said Dave Sybert, K-12 Education specialist with CSI.
This is a creative way to get students involved and promotes hands-on learning outside of school.
There are two divisions, one for grades 4th-8th and another for high school students. You can enter as a team (1-10 members) or as an individual. There are three basic steps to participating in this challenge. First, you must plan your team and choose your category, and conduct background research. Second, build an innovative and functional alternative energy device that will produce power. Third, test your turbine and calculate its power output to improve the design.
In addition to testing the devices, teams will participate in “instant challenges” that consists of supplementary tasks: designing a device that can create energy from flowing water, constructing a sailboat, and building a tower both tall and strong enough to hold and support a small turbine.
As the event organizer, Sybert has seen many different designs, but every year he looks forward to, “Seeing what unique designs and devices students come up with,” said Sybert.
I had the opportunity to design and build a turbine of my own, which I later tested. It proved to be very challenging so my best advice would be to spend time doing each one of the steps above and your team will be better prepared and have more fun. Some teams spend months preparing and others, just a few weeks. The more time you put into the construction of your turbine the more successful your end product will be!
Trophies are awarded to the winners of this challenge. This challenge is fun and beneficial because you learn about engineering, physics, environmental science, and policy!
Outside of this fun, annual event, CSI also has an ongoing research interest in the field of renewable ocean energy. Working with renewable and alternative energies is an initiative that CSI is very interested in.
CSI is leading the Renewable Ocean Energy Program, along with North Carolina State University, NCA&T and UNC Charlotte. Since there is a tremendous amount of energy on the coast, the main question was, ‘How could we harness this to serve our energy needs for the state?’ This research program was launched to combine the coastal, electrical and industrial engineering that is needed for the research and development of technologies that would be able to harness ocean energy and to acquire a solution for the future. The NC Renewable Energy challenge promotes students to learn about renewable energy and become aware of the current issues while contributing by finding possible solutions.