The Wind Tunnel
In order to hold a KidWind Challenge you need a proper wind tunnel. Some of the first wind challenges that inspired us were held at colleges that had large wind tunnels. While these were very cool and could push some serious wind they were not very portable. We wanted something portable and fairly inexpensive. In 2008, KidWind commissioned our first wind tunnel. In true KidWind fashion, it was designed, engineered and constructed by students and teachers at the Belmont Cattaraugus-Allegany BOCES. Through a generous grant from NYSERDA, KidWind provided Mad Professor Brad and his crew of dynamic young engineers and craftsmen a budget of $2000, and outlined requirements relative to safety, ease of testing, variable wind velocity, dynamic data collection and tunnel portability. It officially ROCKED!
After a year of wowing folks with our tunnel, it was time to mix things up a bit and SUPERSIZE the fan pack. We replaced the 14-inch DC fan with four rippin’ 16 inch, high-flow race car radiator fans and a 70 amp variable power supply. The surface area of our wind source increased from roughly 154 square inches to 800 square inches and the rate of air flow increased by more than 50%! With a wall of wind, now roughly 5 times larger and blowing at gale force, our ability to test larger blades enabled the use of taller gearing, which dramatically ramped up output. We saw kids output scores soar with each new KidWind Challenge. Giddy up!
As the Challenge evolves, and the next generation of renewable energy engineers design, test, evaluate and improve their blade designs, KidWind continues to tinker with tunnel ideas to keep competitions fresh and exciting. Following the success of our first tunnel, and then performance gains in its modified form, a second generation tunnel was developed using extruded aluminum and lexan panels and incorporating four, 20 inch high flow AC fans, eliminating the need for a separate power supply, and increasing wind speed and flow area yet again. For the first time ever, KidWind recorded turbine output scores above 100,000 mWs!
KidWind has also successfully prototyped a covered-wagon-style tunnel - which we like to think of as “KidWind Light”. Incorporating a clear vinyl and canvas fabric shell, held up by tent poles and powered by four high output AC fans, our KidWind Light tunnel offers an ultra portable, easily shippable, relatively inexpensive solution for teachers who want to offer their students a fully functioning tunnel, but don’t have much room to store it when it’s not being used. This kit is now available on the website – but we have shared the plans so you are free to build one on your own. The key is to help teachers build something similar to what we use at a Challenge so students can safely test blades with wind speeds and testing conditions that rival the tunnel setups we use in our regional competitions.
Celebrating the creative energy of kids, potential energy of the wind, and the excitement of engineering solutions to one of our world's greatest challenges (creating renewable, sustainable energy in harmony with nature), KidWind is proud to be part of the unfolding story of modern civilization.
The wind tunnel project is currently directed by KidWind WindSenator Andy Lueth. If you have any technical questions you can contact him at andy(at)kidwind.org.