February 2014 - Niki Gilbert and the Future of Green Design
The 3rd Annual Science and Sustainability Expo is coming up Saturday, March 1st at GCC.
At this year’s Science and Sustainability Expo there will again be 3 components: The KidWind Challenge for encouraging grades 3 to 12 students to create efficient and effective wind turbine models, The Green Dollhouse Challenge for all ages to create their vision of an energy efficient home or sustainable landscape, and the Showcase, for the opportunity for educators and students to make a poster presentation to share a project they have launched to support sustainability either in their school or in their community, and inspire others in several schools and communities.
The Green Heroes for the month of February are Niki Gilbert and some of her students who participated in the Expo in 2013.
Ms. Niki Gilbert, the 8th grade math and science teacher at Four Rivers Charter Public School, has incorporated the KidWind project into her curriculum because students who experience creating a wind turbine develop their sense of what is possible, in terms of generating electric power and also in terms of their own abilities as problem-solvers and innovators. She believes that difficult and complex challenges are exactly what are needed in developing students’ agility and self-assurance with future tasks. Students become engineers as they go through the process of designing and creating the most efficient, electricity-generating wind turbine they can for the competition. This effort requires them to develop an understanding of physics concepts in electricity, energy, motion, and wind energy technology, and engages them in a cycle of research, experimentation, and re-design. Throughout, students experience working on a hard problem, making decisions in teams, and dealing with failure as well as celebrating success. Entering the KidWind Challenge at the Science & Sustainability Expo is a good platform for Ms. Gilbert's students to stretch their capabilities and to showcase their efforts.
What do students who participated last year have to say?
Joslyn Scibelli, Lucia Mason, and Erin Snell built their turbine models and developed design changes for the 2013 Expo a year ago.
Joslyn comments, “I build and construct at home and I like it. When I built the turbine model last year in school, I took it home and redesigned it.” She brought the redesigned model to the Expo and presented it to the judges and the wind tunnel test to discover additional improvements that would be helpful.
Lucia remembers, “ It was really cool to learn how generators work, with gears and motors, and we actually understood how they worked with the turbine blades. “ She found that the angle of the turbine blades was essential to creating an efficient and effective turbine.
Erin reflects, “I am not used to building things but I enjoyed working on the project. Right at the Expo when we were testing the efficiency of our turbines in the wind tunnel, my generator quit, and we replaced it and retested right away.” For Erin, the complex relationship between generators and motors in making electric current available for all of our needs was clearer.
Ms. Gilbert and her students were chosen to be the Green Hero for February because of their keen interest in understanding electrical generation and their hands-on work to construct and experiment in the essential field of generating power.