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Brain Food: Micro Wind Turbine Competition


A team of Northern Arizona University students has built a portable wind turbine that can power small electronic devices - like cell phones - in an emergency. Karin Wadsack is the project director at the Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions.

Wadsack calls it a micro wind turbine. "What I mean by that," she says, "is that it's very, very small. The generator, the part that makes electricity is about 2 inches long. The wind turbine blades are a total of 47 centimeters in diameter." Wadsack says, "the idea is that it's compact, it's something that can fit into a portable box, and it could be taken and deployed in disaster relief situations. That's the market that the students have identified."

The project brings together engineering, business, environmental science and political science majors. Wadsack says the diverse backgrounds help the team not only design a wind turbine that works, but also create a business plan to explain it.

"This kind of project," Wadsack says, "particularly because it's engaging our undergraduate students, it brings exactly the kind of focus we'd like to have on our sustainable energy research on campus. Our Institute for Sustainable Energy Solutions - in everything that we do - not only engages faculty in our research, but always engages students." Wadsack adds, "this kind of project is more students than anyone else, so it's showcasing the kind of work we like to do. And I think that's really a huge part of education for us."

The students will demonstrate their wind turbine next week at the Department of Energy's first-ever Collegiate Wind Competition.