The Chewonki Team (from left to right): Gail Johnson from Waynflete School, Portland, ME; Molly Thayer from Belmont High School,Belmont, MA; Daniel Allen from Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Los Angeles, CA; Madeline Vinh from The Northwest School, Seattle, WA; Nick Kaashoek from Lexington High School, Lexington, MA; and Cortland Fischer from Middlebury Union High School, Salisbury, VT.
A team of six high school juniors from Chewonki Semester School won first place in the annual statewide Wind Blade Challenge at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center laboratory in Orono. On Saturday, May 1, 250 students representing 41 teams participated in the competition in which Maine student teams engineer, design and build their own wind turbine blades. Winning scores are a combination of testing the blades to see which will create the most electricity and the team’s presentation of their design process.
This was the first year that Chewonki has entered the Wind Blade Challenge.
Chewonki’s Sustainability Officer Tom Twist remarked that it was “Fascinating. The students learn about aerodynamics, materials, fabrication, and the process that engineers and industrial designers go through to find solutions. We all will look at the Chewonki wind turbine a little differently now.”
Every team uses the same materials, which the laboratory provides. The Chewonki team engineered and designed their blades using small mock-up blades made of balsa wood. They then hand-carved the actual wind blades using traditional boat building methods, rather than more advanced technology. On April 16, the team traveled to Brunswick to SMCC’s Composites Lab to learn how to apply fiberglass to the shaped-foam blades. They then began the work of checking performance and refining their blades.
Chewonki’s Sustainability Fellow Morgan Curtis, a recent graduate of the Thayer School of Engineering at Dartmouth said, “They were so excited. We knew that we had received a good energy score for the blades, but we didn’t know how we had done on the presentation. It was thrilling for all of us.”
Twist added, “This group of students is really special. More than winning or losing, they entered into the day, with all of its excitement, its stress, its highs and lows, with a very admirable openness and curiosity that was palpable. You could tell that win or lose, they were really savoring the whole experience.”
The participating students all elected to join the Wind Blade Challenge team, coached by Twist and Curtis. Team members were Madeline Vinh from The Northwest School, Seattle WA, Molly Thayer from Belmont High School, Belmont MA, Daniel Allen from Crossroads School for Arts & Sciences, Los Angeles CA, Gail Johnson from Waynflete School, Portland ME, Cortland Fischer from Middlebury Union High School, Salisbury VT and Nick Kaashoek from Lexington High School, Lexington MA.
Chewonki semester school enrolls 42 accomplished high school juniors from public and independent schools nationwide for each spring and fall semester. These students complete a rigorous academic program designed for selective college admissions while also learning outdoors through Maine-based science, sustainability, and outdoor leadership curriculum.
Chewonki inspires transformative growth, teaches appreciation and stewardship of the natural world, and challenges people to build thriving, sustainable communities throughout their lives.