Local middle and high school students take part in Google Wind Challenge

March 17, 2018

Students from around the Columbia Gorge took part in the fifth annual Google Wind Challenge on Saturday, March 17, at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center in The Dalles. This year, more than 190 students from 16 local high schools and middle schools competed to build the competition’s top turbines.

During the Wind Challenge, student teams worked together with volunteer mentors to design, build and test their turbines. The colorful, creative machines were then presented to judges Dave Mason, Jordan Haney, Pam Morse, Rose Kelly, Phil Donovan, and Tom Lieurance who selected the winners based on each turbine’s power and efficiency.

The Wind Challenge and accompanying STEM fair is sponsored by Google and produced in partnership with Gorge Technology Alliance and Columbia Gorge Community College. The event is a culmination of the organizations’ broader efforts to bring hands-on STEM opportunities to area students and inspire the next generation of leaders in these fields.

“Our hope is that students and the broader community grow a passion for science and technology by participating in the Wind Challenge,” said Dave Karlson, data center operations manager for Google. “For five years, we have been proud to support this STEM education event. We are excited to continue supporting STEM initiatives in the Gorge.”

Participants, family and friends and community members also had the opportunity to take part in the fun by exploring hands-on exhibits at the adjoining STEM fair, featuring interactive activities from Bonneville Power, Gorge MakerSpace, Google, Columbia Gorge Community College, Cascade Mountain School, K’Nex, The Dalles Public Library, FIRST Tech Challenge teams, and more.

This year, three high school division winners, three middle school division winners and two categories of runner ups were selected (see names below). The winning teams received an assortment of fun prizes, including Sphero robotic balls, robot kits, Snap Circuits and tablets for their efforts. State Representative Daniel Bonham, Wasco County Commissioner Rod Runyon, along with representatives for Congressman Greg Walden and Senator Jeff Merkley, were on hand to award prizes.

Here are the results: High schools: Pacific Crest Innovation Academy Owls, first place; Stevenson High School Bulldogs Maroon, second; Life in the Gorge Homeschool Group Cyclones, third; Runners-up: Stevenson High School Bulldogs Blue and Goldendale Home School. Middle schools: Henkle Middle School Steminist 2, first; Henkle Middle School Steminist, second; Wind River Middle School Royals, third; Runners-up: Goldendale Middle School and Goldendale Homeschoolers.

“Each year, we are wowed by students’ clever designs,” said Gorge Technology Alliance Executive Director Jessica Metta. “The Wind Challenge is an example of how you can make STEM education captivating and interactive.”

For more information about this year’s Wind Challenge, visit www.windchallenge.org.