Credit: CENG | Courtesy

Cal Poly’s Wind Power Design team is among 13 universities selected to compete in the June 2021 Collegiate Wind Competition.

The competition, sponsored by the U.S. Department of Energy, challenges teams to create a wind energy project plan within certain siting requirements, and to build and test a wind turbine, according to a recent press release.

Wind Power Design president and mechanical engineering senior Jess Dent co-founded the club her junior year with the goal of forming a team to compete in the competition. 

The club applied to the competition for the first time in 2018 and was not accepted, but club members were not deterred. Students kept busy sharpening their skills by working on smaller projects throughout the year, such as building a small wind turbine for the Laguna Middle School garden to educate younger students on renewable energy, before reapplying. 

Since being accepted for the 2021 competition, the club has started preparing by reorganizing team positions.

“We’re looking into restructuring [the team] so that everyone is working on this competition, since it’s going to need a lot of manpower,” Dent said.

The club is also reaching out to faculty in various departments, such as mechanical engineering, construction management and natural resources, to learn more about how to address the various siting requirements of the wind farm project plan.

Wind Power Design faces the challenge of being a first time team competing against 10 other returning teams, according to Wind Power Design faculty advisor and mechanical engineering professor Andrew Kean.

“There are some schools that have been doing this for quite a few years in a row, and we wanted to be competitive and learn as much as possible this quarter,” Kean said.

Despite this challenge, Kean said that he was impressed by the initiative and commitment team members have shown.

“This group is one of the most dynamic groups of self-starters I’ve ever worked with,” Kean said. “I think that it’s totally an organic, student created project, which is probably the biggest differentiator between our team and others.” 

Team members consist of a variety of majors, such as various engineering majors, environmental management and natural resources.

“I’ve always been a big advocate for renewable energy and I was looking for a club at Cal Poly that would foster that,” mechanical engineering sophomore Zach Dunkelberger said, who joined Wind Power Design in fall 2019.

Dent said that one aspect of the competition she is looking forward to is having the team unite through their work towards one common goal.

Dent said she has noticed there is a community of Cal Poly engineering clubs that develop strong team bonds during competitions, and she is “looking forward to bringing Wind into that.”

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