The Power Race

On Friday 4th May, 30 Year 8 students took part in ‘The Power Race’ - a STEM activity which explored the construction and efficiency of wind turbines.

Collaborating in small groups, with each team representing a different European country, students were tasked with building a working model of a turbine in an attempt to create the most cost-effective and energy-efficient design.

The teams were given access to a central supply of construction materials, each of which had a fictional price attached – prompting students to carefully consider the cost implications their designs would have on future profits.

Among the variety of materials available to the teams were card and plastic for blade construction, plus rods and connectors from the K’Nex construction toy system which were used to build the turbine towers. 

Desktop fans replicated the wind required to turn the blades and multimeters were used to monitor the power being generated.

Each model was then connected to a special wireless transmitter which sent live readings to a central computer. This unique wireless data system enabled real-time competition, with the readings being displayed on a screen at the front of the classroom. This was visualised as a map of Europe, with each ‘country’ displaying its turbine power output in milliwatts.

The efficiency of each design was closely monitored, encouraging further modifications and additional testing to compete with the other countries.

The live results system was particularly effective in helping teams to refine their blade designs – ultimately revealing that a uniformed, streamlined design was the most effective.

Throughout the competition, symbols on the screen indicated when students should decrease and increase the power of the fan, replicating real life changes in wind speed. At the end of each round, the surplus energy was offset against the construction costs and charges to customers to reveal each team’s profit. 

The overall winner was Abigail Cooper, who flew the flag for Great Britain. After her team mate was unfortunately taken ill during the morning, Abigail chose to continue the activity working alone - making her success even more well-deserved.   

Supervising the students throughout the activity was Miss Rix, Teacher of Science, who commented: ‘The Power Race helped students develop a range of skills including teamwork, design, problem solving and negotiation.

They showed great resilience and determination in ensuring their designs performed to their full potential and it was great to see them working together to achieve the best results.

Our students were, as always, fabulous and a real credit to themselves and to the school.'

The Power Race was an activity organised and run by UKSTEM – an East Yorkshire based company who aim to bridge the gap between school lessons and careers in Science Technology Engineering and Maths (STEM). 

UKSTEM Associate Beckie Cargill commented: ‘The students were a fantastic group to work with and I hope to work with them again in the future. The Power Race, now in its second year at Withernsea High School, is just one of the many exciting activities offered by UKSTEM.

Experiences such as these are invaluable when it comes to opening students’ eyes to the wider world around them and to the future job opportunities that exist for them in STEM-based careers’