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A project with purpose: SHS engineering students redesign wind turbine project for 4th graders

posted Mar 29, 2016, 8:16 PM by Jeffrey Wolf

By:  Kate Wallschlaeger, Opinions Editor

Posted December 18th, 2015

Generally speaking, academic projects are solely designed to be beneficial to the students, to broaden and deepen their understanding of a given topic. In the minds of many high schoolers, this purpose, however important, fails to justify the amount of time and energy consumed by such projects. For once the grade is written, what is to become of the result of their efforts?

This common question, however, is not asked within Design for Manufacturing, an engineering course at Slinger High School. The instructor, Mr. Hermann, has succeeded in evoking true and lasting impact through his projects. Recent evidence of this lies in the completion of the project, “Request for Proposal: Wind Turbine Project.”

In this project, teams of students were asked to redesign a project intended to teach students in grades 5-12 about the powers of wind energy. The original project, created by a government organization, outlined how to build and test a wind turbine made from PVC pipe. Speaking bluntly, though, it was poorly done.

This project included vastly clarifying the instructions so that 4th graders could successfully construct a wind turbine. Also, a jig needed to be designed and manufactured by the high school students. It would be used to safely and accurately cut the PVC piping, the material used for the general skeleton of the wind turbine. Four separate groups of high school students set out to accomplish this goal with ingenuity, skill, and hard work.

Academically, they learned about the engineering design process, team dynamics, wind energy, manufacturing, target audience considerations, presentation formalities, and respectful discussion amongst competing groups. However, this project and all of their combined efforts did not fall away as soon as the grade was written.

The worthwhile purpose, the answer to that ever-so common question, is that the strengths of their redesigned projects will be combined by Mr. Hermann and given to 4th graders in the Slinger School District to build and learn from. In essence, these high school students have dedicated their time and energy so that younger generations may learn of engineering and the skills it involves.

Perhaps those future 4th grade students will gain an understanding that few people have at such a young age. Perhaps they will be inspired to explore engineering rather than be intimidated by it. Or, perhaps, they will simply have fun while such lessons secretly enter their minds and help them grow as individuals. All of these outcomes, however, would be the result of high school students’ efforts. In their minds, this sense of community impact exceedingly justifies their dedication to this project.