Over spring break, the university hosted the KidWind Northern Virginia Regional Challenge – a renewable energy design and construction student competition. Two participating teams, both from Loudoun County and sponsored by the nonprofit Makersmiths, Inc., are now headed to the KidWind National Solar Challenge later this month after performing well at the state competition at James Madison University. The high school solar team, Neighborhood WATTs, won the state competition and the middle school solar team, Operation Cheap & Clean, placed second.
Shenandoah brought together a village of volunteers to promote sustainability by hosting the regional challenge, an all-day event that drew more than 100 young team members, as well as coaches and parents. A variety of Shenandoah community members played a part in the day’s success, according to Visiting Associate Professor of Education Studies Diane D. Painter, Ph.D., who also helped organize the regional competition at Shenandoah.
For example, Shenandoah Director of Facilities Management Barry Schnoor gave tours about the James R. Wilkins, Jr. Athletic and Events Center’s solar roof, while College of Arts & Sciences Assistant Dean and Director of Innovation and Assistant Professor Environmental Studies and Biology Allyson Degrassi, Ph.D., worked with university environmental club members to supervise an activities room and give environmentally oriented walks through Sarah’s Glen, Dr. Painter said.
Painter and Dr. Degrassi worked with the KidWind state organizer to set up rooms and wind tunnels and posted signs. And, Painter helped teams find the rooms where they’d display their projects and even directed traffic. Organizers also worked with the Department of Campus Safety to arrange parking and with Sodexo to provide food. The keynote speaker had a Shenandoah connection, too, representing the company that installed the university’s rooftop solar panels.
Each of the teams now preparing for nationals were coached by leaders trained by Painter, who will also play a dual role at that competition. “I will step in as coach of the middle school solar team (that team’s coach cannot go due to a work conflict) and I will also serve as an assistant coach to the high school solar team,” Dr. Painter said. “All together, there will be 12 team members going – ages 9-15 years of age!”
The KidWind National Solar Challenge will be held May 14-17, at the University of Colorado in Boulder, Colorado.
Featured image: Team Neighborhood WATTs at the state KidWind Challenge competition