Oxford Air Sharks riding the wind

Oxford USD 358 students Danny Ball and Austin Gaither are headed back to the National KidWind Challenge hoping to capture another title.

They won the national title last year as middle school students and now they are eyeing another trophy as freshmen in the high school competition.

“We want to keep improving and getting better,” said Ball.

The 2019 National KidWind Challenge will be held in Houston from May 21-23 at the American Wind Energy Association annual trade show, conference and exhibition.

Before nationals, more than 150 students from across Kansas competed in the state KidWind Challenge in Topeka in March.

To prepare for the KidWind Challenge, student teams studied wind power, then built a turbine using a design and materials of their choice. During the competition, each team’s turbine was tested in a wind tunnel. Team members were judged on their knowledge, design and documentation, as well as performance testing in the wind tunnel.

This year’s Kansas KidWind State Finals winners by school and grade category were: fourth-eighth grades, first place, AEKG, Beloit Jr. High School; second place, Paola Middle 1, Paola Middle School and third place, Electric Four, Lebo Homeschool Co-Op. In the ninth-12th grade, first place, Oxford Air Sharks, Oxford High School; second place, Thunderhawks, Wheatland High School and third place, CBCR9, Sterling High School.

Ball and Gaither have been working KidWind for four years and have advanced to Nationals three times, said Shelly Graves, the Oxford district’s STEAM coordinator.

Last year, as eighth-graders, they won the National title, receiving a KidWind sculpture and $750 and also won a collaborative challenge with college students from Puerto Rico. At the Chicago event, the turbine designed by the boys’ produced the most energy in trial runs and had to be placed in the college testing tunnels to get a reading, Graves said.

This year, Ball and Gaither have spent the spring making changes and modifications to their original wind turbine design; working on blades, gears and the generator in preparation for national competition, Graves said.

Gaither said that being involved in KidWind has helped him better understand wind energy. Ball said applying math to real world situations helps him learn. Both Ball and Gaither said they hope to pursue futures as engineers.

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