More than 50 grade 8 students from O'Rourke Middle School teacher Ed Hanlon's technology classes recently attended the General Electric Technology Day, which is a STEM education project collaboratively developed by Schenectady-area educators and GE technical experts to enrich the STEM experience of local middle school-age students.
At GE Technology Day, BH-BL students worked in small groups at a series of interactive tech stations to compete in a design challenge where they had to create a model wind turbine that would generate the greatest amount of energy for the least amount of cost. The student weren't taking wild guesses with this project, however. They had some previous guidance when GE engineers visited them at school a week earlier to educate students about wind energy. In fact, the engineers and students worked together to research three ideal locations for a wind farm by investigating the environmental, fiscal and political factors that influence the development of alternative energy. The students then brought their new found knowledge with them to GE Technology Day to help them in the competition.
At Technology Day, the students were given the challenge scenario of developing a wind turbine in Argentina. Using their research, they had to choose the overall height of the structure, the number and length of the blades, and the width and design of the blade. The students even tested their prototypes and were able to make modifications before the final competition.
During the final competition, the designs were attached to a model turbine and electric fans simulated airflow. In the end, the winning groups were those that produced the smallest voltage-to-cost ratio.
BH-BL students and teachers also took a tour of a GE manufacturing building and saw an actual turbine blade.
“It was a great day filled with tons of educational experiences and projects for our students,” explained Science & Technology Education Department Head David Collins. “It’s exposure to real-world scenarios and professional interactions like this that leave a lasting impression on students. I think there were quite a few kids today who will remember this day and perhaps even draw on it as they continue their educational career and try to find a focus of study for their future.”