A 3-foot tall wind turbine made of PVC pipe, balsa wood and duct tape earned four students from Stagg High School in Stockton top honors in a regional science and engineering competition, and now the "Wind Team" is seeking funding to attend state finals in May in Santa Barbara.
Students in Stagg's Math, Engineering and Science Achievement (MESA) program beat out 19 other teams in Northern California to get a chance to compete against four other regional winners at the MESA state finals May 11-12.
The group devoted hundreds of hours in class and after school and many prototypes to come up with a functioning wind turbine that wowed the judges. It wasn't easy, said Dr. Maria Garcia-Sheets, director of the Pacific MESA Center at University of the Pacific, who oversees MESA programs in San Joaquin County.
The team re-engineered designs from previous years to cut the turbine weight in half. "They re-engineered and cut pieces they thought were redundant, and changed the blade design," she said. The students tested about 25 blade configurations before selecting a final version.
"And it wasn't just the design," she said. "They had to write a 15-page technical paper, present a speech and devise a technical board. They had to be very articulate about the physics and mathematical equations."
Needless to say, the students' Math and Engineering skills were tested. "They have gotten good at Math and Science," Garcia-Sheets said. "The MESA program brings together hands-on activities that makes Math and Science come alive."
The students and supporters would like to see them come alive in Santa Barbara, but a tight budget may keep them home. So, they are seeking financial support to pay for the $3,000 charter bus and lodging.
"This program keeps students excited, engaged and involved," Garcia-Sheets said, adding that a member of last year's team who now attends University of the Pacific in Stockton plans to work in the wind-energy industry.
Photo of members of the Wind Team by Andrew Walter, Stagg High School teacher