Lakes Region High School from Naples Triumphs at the Kleinschmidt Windstorm Challenge

ORONO, Maine — More than 400 Maine middle and high school students participated in the 7th Annual Kleinschmidt Windstorm Challenge on May 17 in the Harold Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory at the University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center. In the Kleinschmidt Windstorm Challenge, teams of middle and high school students collaborate to design and construct a scale-model floating wind turbine platform, test the design under wind and wave conditions in the world-class Harold Alfond W2 Ocean Engineering Laboratory, and deliver a presentation to a panel of judges. A total of 74 high school and middle school teams participated in this year’s event, making it the largest competition to date.

Photo of the winner of the Windstorm Challenge, the Lakes Region High School
The winning team of the 2019 Kleinschmidt Windstorm Challenge

Lakes Region High School’s ‘The Lakers’ captured first place in the high school division while Skowhegan Area High School’s ‘Team #1’ took second, and Orono High School’s ‘The Real A-Team’ earned third. In the middle school division, King Middle School (Portland) ‘Raman Noodles’ placed first, with fellow classmates ‘Better Than You’ took second, and Fort O’Brien School (Machiasport) ‘Team Ingrish’ earned third.

In addition to a paid internship at the UMaine Composites Center valued at more than $20,000, the three members of the winning high school team, along with their advisor, won a trip to Germany to visit an offshore wind farm, hosted by EnBW.

“This truly hands-on STEM experience is the only one of its kind in the country and is developing Maine’s next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and engineers to lead Maine and the U.S. in harnessing renewable energy opportunities in the Gulf of Maine and beyond,” says Dr. Habib Dagher, Executive Director of the UMaine Advanced Structures and Composites Center, “the creativity and commitment exhibited by these students is extraordinary and gives me great confidence in the future of renewable energy in our state.”

Photo of a student testing a floating wind turbine platform
A student testing a floating wind turbine platform

“I fully realized the value and importance of the Kleinschmidt Windstorm Challenge the first year I entered a team. In the years since, it has been a highlight of every school year knowing that students who go become aware of possibilities and opportunities about which they were completely unaware beforehand. It is an amazing and relevant learning experience that all participating students have appreciated. I am so proud of the work my team has done in preparation for and at the challenge. They were committed to researching and prototyping multiple design solutions and ultimately settled on a tri-floater. Winning the competition has been a great source of pride for the team and our school,” says Alison O’Connor, Physics and Introduction to Design and Engineering Teacher at Lakes Region High School, “We are all extremely grateful to the University of Maine and the Advanced Structures and Composites Center for continuing to provide an extraordinary experience for Maine students.”

“Kleinschmidt has been honored to sponsor the 2019 Windstorm Challenge at the University of Maine. It is thrilling to see the students actively engage in problem-solving and construction of unique, creative support systems. This challenge promotes intellectual curiosity among students who may someday become engineers and scientists that solve great human challenges in the areas of renewable energy and sustainable environmental practices”, says Jon Christensen, President and CEO of Kleinschmidt, “ We were happy to recognize that outcome when an engineering student recently told me that the Windstorm Challenge helped reinforced her decision to become an engineer. What a great opportunity for students in Maine, and for the future of STEM in our state! Congratulations to the winners, and thanks to all the contestants who participated.”

Photo of the Closing Ceremony for the Windstorm Challenge
The closing ceremony for the Windstorm Challenge

The University of Maine Advanced Structures and Composites Center has a world-leading program for the design of floating offshore wind technology and plans to build the first commercial-scale floating wind farm in the U.S. in the Gulf of Maine. UMaine is leading the country in developing floating offshore wind technology and won a $40 million competition from the U.S. Department of Energy to build the first floating wind demonstration project off the U.S. coast. Back in 2013, UMaine deployed the first floating wind turbine on the U.S. coast, a 1:8 scale version of the full-scale prototype.

Maine has 156 GW of offshore wind capacity within 50 miles of the coast, while it takes 2.4 GW to power the whole state of Maine. One percent of the Gulf of Maine’s wind energy is equivalent to 2 nuclear power plants. Maine could gradually reduce its reliance on gasoline and heating oil by using electric heat pumps for heating homes and more electric cars. A gradual transition to electrify heating and transportation by 2050 will require 5 GW of additional offshore wind installations, about 3% of the Gulf of Maine offshore wind power capacity. Maine spends $4-$6 billion per year on fossil fuels, and a gradual transition to renewable energy will allow some of these dollars to stay in Maine, and help stabilize energy costs for Maine families.