JAY — The looks of wonder on the faces of the students were priceless as they watched the wind turbine blades they designed and built begin to rotate and build up speed.

The seven members of the Jay High School honors physics class had no way of testing their turbine under high-speed fans prior to the competition and were not sure their theory would work.

But the looks recorded on video and replayed Wednesday said it all.

Rob Taylor’s physics class’ entry won first place Friday at the Maine High School Wind Blade Challenge at the University of Maine in Orono. They were one of five Jay teams under the guidance of Taylor and technology education teacher Dan Lemieux to enter either the blade challenge or the windstorm challenge, Taylor said Wednesday. 

The challenge was created in cooperation with the Maine Composite Alliance, the Maine Wind Industry Initiative and the Advanced Structure of Composite Center at U-Maine.

The 46 teams that entered the challenge had help from the Composite Center.
The seniors in Taylor’s physics class worked more than four months to research, design and manufacture their three-blade entry. Ninety-nine percent of it was research and design, said Christopher Labbe, a team member. They manufactured it in two weeks and were tweaking it up to the day before the competition, when they completed the blades, team member Edward Krupp said.

Each wind-blade team was given a kit that included three blocks of foam, fiberglass and resin. The idea was to see which turbine would create the most energy over a 2-minute period, unloaded and with varying loads. The Jay physics team’s project created 26.5 volts.

The team started learning about wind power at an expo in January.  They began their research on the Internet and experimented with small models before they made the winning entry.

They decided on three blades because they found it created the optimal spin,  Krupp said. They carved the blades, wrapped them in fiberglass and put them in vacuum bags. They used vacuum fusion to drain the resin out through the fiberglass, team member Jordan Couture said.

Dan Lemieux’s technical expertise was critical in the process, Taylor said.
The team made each blade with an added piece of foam and slit holes along one edge of each blade to add washers for balance.

Team member Rose LeBlanc was the legal compliance officer. She learned all of the rules, Taylor said, and checked with challenge officials to see whether the team could make larger blades, since it was not mentioned in the rulebook. She learned that they could do what they wanted, he said.

“They were the only team there that had a wider turbine than the foam blocks,” Taylor said.

Labbe and Krupp did most of the manufacturing.

Student Christy Whitman did much of the labor, such as sanding, and she recorded each step of the process in a binder. Beth Moore and Couture did most of the engineering and Krupp and Labbe added the technology.

Britni Hutchinson and Moore put together the oral presentation that helped win the challenge.

“We were all feeling competitive,” Whitman said. “It’s really nerve-wracking. I was very proud of us. We worked together and we did really good. We worked hard. Some schools there never heard of Jay.”  

The team won a $50,000 work-study scholarship for the composite laboratory if any of the students go to the University of Maine, Taylor said. Two of them plan to do that.

Most of the seven students will go on to technical careers in which they will use this type of learning, Taylor said. “This group of seven has a really effective bag of skills,” he said.

Teams from the school also brought home first places in robotic competitions.

“It’s a decent goodbye, a last hurrah for the Jay High School,” Labbe said.

On July 1, Jay and Livermore Falls high schools will become part of a consolidated school unit and will be known as Spruce Mountain High School.

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