Maine high school students prepare small-scale wind turbine blades for competition

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Article By Nick McCrea, BDN Staff

ORONO, Maine — Two teams of Orono High School students put in extra hours during their April vacation and woke up early on Wednesday to put one of the final touches on small-scale wind blades they will use to compete in next week’s Wind Blade Challenge at the University of Maine.

With the help of Tom Snape, a research engineer at UMaine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, seven students — all freshmen and sophomores — infused their foam and fiberglass blades with resin that will solidify and, they hope, help the blades withstand the competition’s rigorous wind tests.

Infusion involves putting the blades in a large plastic bag along with a layer of cloth and mesh, vacuuming out the air and pumping in a resin mixture that seals pores and imperfections in the surface.

The students started the project early in the school year as an extracurricular activity, according to Christine Crocker, an Orono High School teacher who oversees the team along with Jack Ledger, the school’s shop and technical drawing teacher.

Emma Peterson, a freshman at Orono High School, said the team started out by researching various wind blade shapes and created test models out of foam to see which shapes worked out best.

She said her experience with the wind blade team has exposed her to engineering and built her interest in the field.

Before this project, Peterson said she didn’t know much about wind turbines or how they work. “I just saw them spinning,” she said Wednesday. But the process of helping her team research and build its own blade has helped her interest grow, she said.

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