On a warm, breezy Earth Day at the Illinois Central College campus, students explored ways to turn that breeze into a renewable energy source. ICC's Student Association For the Environment (SAFE) held its first wind turbine competition, challenging students to design a model that would generate the most energy.
On a warm, breezy Earth Day at the Illinois Central College campus, students explored ways to turn that breeze into a renewable energy source.
ICC's Student Association For the Environment (SAFE) held its first wind turbine competition, challenging students to design a model that would generate the most energy.
The turbine competition is how SAFE decided to mark its second Earth Day celebration on Wednesday.
"Last year was about recycling. This year we thought it was more important to focus on renewable energy," said SAFE President Patrick Lynn.
The competition aimed to see which turbine could produce the most energy. To do that, each one was placed in a wind tunnel constructed in the ICC courtyard. A thin string was threaded through the shaft of the turbine and connected to a small metal weight outside the tunnel. Threading the string through a series of pulleys, the turbines competed to see which one could raise the weight about 20 feet into the air the fastest.
And with a $100 cash prize at stake for the winner, competition was fierce. The amateur wind engineers could be heard trash talking each other before competition began.
"There is only one other (turbine) here that's maybe any competition," said Mike Turbyfill, an engineering student.
Turbyfill placed his bet on a heavy, wood and metal, vertical-axis design. Despite his confidence going in, his turbine finished last after taking more than a minute to catch the 5.8 mph wind generated by the tunnel.
Going in the opposite direction, Anthony Galassi, a physics student, went with a much lighter, aerodynamic design. But many at the competition snickered at his use of Styrofoam for the blades, a material Galassi said was easier to shape. His design finished second to last.
"The wind tunnel needs to go faster, I think this thing would perform much better at higher speeds," he said.
But in the end, the winner was neither a physicist nor an engineer. It was an education major merely in search of extra credit.
"I just tried to keep a real simple design that looked the most like a windmill," said Lindsey Rogers, whose turbine blew all her competitors out of the water with a time of just 24 seconds. The turbine's hallmark were globs of neon yellow expanding foam. They were a "last-ditch effort," Rogers said, to keep the fins from flying off.
Given the success of the competition this year, it is likely SAFE will hold it again next year. And a few familiar faces are likely to return.
"It was a good design," said Galassi. "With a few tweaks I can fix it and do a lot better next year."
Tim Sampson can be reached at (309) 686-3251 or firstname.lastname@example.org.