Secondary Education Wind Energy Demonstration

Grant# 98-01
Principal Investigator: Jan Gensch
Co-Principal Investigator: Mac Smith
Organization: Ballard West Elementary School
Technical Area: Information Transfer/Renewable Energy

Background and Significance
This grant supports the development and implementation of an energy curriculum designed for and presented to all sixth grade students at Ballard West Elementary School. This has been a team effort spearheaded by the team of four sixth grade teachers. As principal investigator, I brought the idea of the incorporation of the wind turbine and its realities as scientific investigation into the energy curriculum. The equipment included with the wind turbine i.e., the anemometer, wind vane, and temperature sensor are integral parts for the students to gain understanding of what a scientist would look at to determine if this site is a viable location for electrical energy to be generated by the wind. The sixth grade students in the Extended Learning Program are gathering data concerning the wind, its direction and speed over various periods of time as a scientist would do to make appropriate decisions. This year, we also installed a solar panel to compare data to see the potential for solar energy at this site. Information gained is summarized through a computer program to give the students an opportunity to look at detailed research to be shared with all sixth grade students.

This information is being shared with all students in Ballard West Elementary via LAN within the school building. Energy issues are of vital importance to the Ballard Community Schools. We are making the students aware that they must be informed about energy alternatives to enable them to make wise energy choices in their future as consumers and purchasers of energy.

Specific areas of energy studied during a six-week period were:

  • Fossil Fuels
  • Solar Energy
  • Nuclear Energy
  • Wind Energy
  • Hydroelectric energy
  • Biomass Energy in Iowa

Project Objectives

  • The students will gather and interpret weather information to make summaries of weather over a period of time at this location.
  • The students will calculate how much power can be generated through energy produced by a wind turbine located on the Ballard West Elementary School building.
  • The students will learn energy requirements of different electrical appliances.
  • The students will predict whether the use of wind energy generated at this site is a viable option for the Ballard West Elementary School and the local area.

Summary of Work to Date
Extended Learning Program students from sixth grade were able to go up on the roof of the building and observe firsthand the change in installation and saw how the wiring was done. Noise through vibrations was a concern last year that has been resolved by installation on a tower about 15 feet tall.

All sixth-grade students have completed the energy curriculum. The unit was complemented with speakers on recycling to generate electricity in Ames, and a speaker on the future of energy production in Iowa, with a strong focus on the use of wind turbines in Iowa. The students made field trips to a gas pipeline terminal in Des Moines, the Ames Resource Recovery Plant, and the Ames Power Plant.

At the end of October and November the students charted the results of the wind data gathering for those months. The students could see that October and November was not a good period of time for the needed amount of winds to generate electrical energy at this site. A more detailed analysis of data will be conducted in the future.

Work Yet to be Completed
The students will be further trained in the use of the computer program to make informed decisions about the use of the small amount of power being generated at this site. We will actually be making predictions about amps and amp-hours needed to run specific small appliances that require less than 500 watts of power.

Sixth-grade students will make presentations to second, third, and fifth grade students for possible application of weather pattern information to those grades.