We live on an island that is known for its wind. The annual exchange between Branksome Hall Asia and Branksome Hall Canada is centered around an inquiry into wind energy. This year’s inquiry took the BHX experience to a new level of inquiry, excitement, and challenge.
Inquiry is about investigating and exploring possibilities. It depends on a solid foundation of knowledge, and a willingness to take risks and explore possibilities. Following a visit from Professor Kim of the Wind Turbine Engineering Laboratory from Jeju National University, students began their inquiry into designing a wind turbine. With access to a variety of materials, technologies such as laser cutters, heat forming, and 3D printers, they explored the effect of blade angle, surface area, number of blades, and blade profile on their turbine’s ability to generate electricity.
For two months prior to the exchange, a team of BHA grade 9 students worked on the weekends to design and construct a wind tunnel test chamber. The centerpiece of the experience, the test chamber allowed for accurate and consistent measurement of turbine designs. Throughout the process, students collaborated with each other, used data analysis to continually iterate and improve their designs, and developed novel approaches to solving the design problem. Students innovated and experimented with materials in new and interesting ways--such as using elastic bands to tension the elements of their design, bending plastic with heat to create unique shapes, and building turbines with double sets of blades.
By applying scientific knowledge and mathematically analyzing the test data from the wind tunnel, students continually iterated and developed their turbine designs. With full access to the fabrication technology in the BHA Design Lab, we saw some students designing cross-sections of turbine blades in 3D modeling software that were later laser cut; others 3D modeled complex parts for turbine sections. One student announced that we had run out of a particular part, but not to worry because she had taken measurements and 3D modeled her own--Could we please print it on the 3D printer? It was wonderful to see students taking initiative and ownership of their learning and continually pushing their inquiry
Every aspect of this intensive project was guided by the ethos of design-test-iterate. The 2017 BHX strengthened the bonds between our two schools and provided our students with an authentic experience into what research, design, and testing entails and how to apply it to solving complex real-world problems.