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S-O students participate in national wind turbine competition

Roxanne Hayenga is shown with National KidWind Challenge participants Owen Hayenga-Johnson and Jaylen Vos, who competed recently at the New Orleans, La. event. (Submitted photo)

SIBLEY, Iowa — A Sibley-Ocheyedan Middle School team was pleasantly surprised when it was informed it would be competing in a national wind turbine competition in New Orleans, La.

“I was pretty excited because that was the first time I had been to New Orleans,” said fifth-grade team member Owen Hayenga-Johnson. “I wanted to see how our windmill would perform against other windmills from around the country.”

Hayenga-Johnson and his fellow fifth-grade teammate, Jaylen Vos, competed at the National KidWind Challenge in late May at the Ernest N. Morial Convention Center. Teams at the competition were ranked based on how many units of energy (known as joules) their wind turbines could produce when placed in a wind tunnel. The soon-to-be sixth-graders were ranked 20th in the event for a turbine they had built.

Another Sibley-Ocheyedan team competed in the competition, too. A turbine built by eighth-grade student Katherine Walton and seventh-grade students Elliott Croatt and Garrett Sarringar placed ninth in the tournament. The students went up against 24 other teams in the competition.

It wasn’t the first time Hayenga-Johnson and Vos won a competition for their small turbine. The team placed third in a regional tournament in Cherokee, Iowa earlier this year.

“It was a (project) we were doing at school and our teacher had signed us up for a regional competition,” said Hayenga-Johnson. “At first I was, like, ‘OK,’ and then it turned out to be really fun. Then we won the regional competition, so that was really awesome.”

The young engineer’s mother, Roxanne Hayenga, said the team’s turbine had a rough start at the competition, but the judge allowed the two to fix a gear that had fallen off.

“They had no issues when they were testing their turbine and they kept on getting better results,” she explained. “Then, they got to the first competition and the motor gear fell off. That was considered an epic fail, so they were allowed to adjust it.”

At the competition, the turbine produced 8.2 joules in 30 seconds — the most the team ever recorded.

“It’s not about the winning, it’s about the learning,” Hayenga said.

Team members also had to present a journal that documented their creation and experimentation with the turbine to a panel of judges. Additionally, they had to build a sail car in 15 minutes.

Hayenga-Johnson and Vos’ car travelled 10.8 meters in the competition.

Hayenga-Johnson said he doesn’t know if he wants to pursue a career in the wind energy field, but he hopes to compete in the competition next year.

“I’m not sure it’s something I want to go into, but it could be the power of the future so we don’t have to use all the fossil fuels to do everything we do,” he said.

Alex Chhith

Alex Chhith joined the Worthington Daily Globe in Janurary 2016 after graduating from the University of Minnesota - Twin Cities with duel bachelor degrees in Professional Journalism and Political Science and with a minor in Spanish Studies. The Eden Prairie, Minnesota native interned for a couple of news publications located in St. Paul and in her hometown during her undergraduate career. She also studied abroad in Toledo, Spain last year -- though her Spanish is a little rusty at the moment. At the Globe she covers primarily the City and Education beat, but has most recently also covered the Crime and Courts beat. On the weekends, Alex likes to relax and catch up with her friends or with her favorite television shows. Game of Thrones, House of Cards and Lord of the Rings are her go-to films to watch.