By Tracy Crews
How can wind, waves, and sunlight provide coastal communities with electricity? To demonstrate the answer, Oregon coast students are invited to design models of wind, wave, and solar energy devices and bring them to the 6th annual Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge in March.
Oregon Sea Grant hosts the annual Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge at Oregon State University’s Hatfield Marine Science Center, and this year’s competition will be held on March 5, 2019. The event provides students in grades 3-12 opportunities to learn about renewable energy options that are currently being investigated along the Oregon Coast, and provides support and context for teachers seeking to integrate real-world science, technology, engineering and math (STEM) in their classrooms.
At last year’s Challenge sponsored by the Siletz Tribal Charitable Contribution Fund and the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, more than 170 students brought their renewable energy devices to the HMSC Visitor Center to test in wave tanks, a wind tunnel, or under high-powered lights to see which designs produced the greatest amount of energy. In addition, 25 volunteer judges from research and industry were on site to interact with students, assess student designs, and provide feedback.
In preparation for the Challenge, students researched renewable energy, practiced the engineering design process as they developed, built and tested their prototypes, and created a marketing poster detailing the strengths and benefits of their design. At the event, students further communicated their learning by interacting with other students and adults at the competition, as well as providing an engineering presentation to a panel of volunteer judges.
According to an engineering judge who volunteered at the 2018 competition, “One strength of the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge is students’ involvement with the scientific, problem solving, and engineering design processes. And, seeing the enthusiasm and pride the students had in their work was fun!”
One teacher who brought students to last year’s competition reflected, “I appreciated the high interest and developing curiosity that purposely connects to this challenge. It touched my heart to hear youngsters using scientific vocabulary and investigations in their explanations about their engineer designs.”
Upper grade level student teams that win at the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge are invited to participate in the KidWind National Challenge, providing them the opportunity to face top wind and solar energy teams from across the US.
The Oregon Coast STEM Hub will be scheduling educator workshops for teachers and mentors along the Oregon Coast who are interested in bringing students to this year’s competition. Keep an eye on the Professional Development page of the Oregon Coast STEM Hub website for announcements of these opportunities. For more information, contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tracy Crews is the Marine Education Program Manager for Oregon Sea Grant, the Student STEM Experiences Coordinator for the Oregon Coast STEM Hub, and the coordinator for the Oregon Coast Renewable Energy Challenge.