A team of NextEra project managers and wind turbine technicians shared some real-world information with students in Heath Sharp's Introduction to Engineering class at Pratt High School then critiqued their miniature wind generator projects Feb. 21.

Pratt High School science students got to present their wind generator projects to NextEra Energy employees, including some that actually work on the generators themselves.

The wind generators were part of an engineer design component for Heath Sharp's Introduction to Engineering class. This is an engineering design unit and the students had to design a miniature wind generator that actually produced electricity. Having the NextEra team here was a great coincidence, Sharp said.

Students were scheduled to visit the Ninnescah Wind Farm in the southeast quadrant of the county but because of weather issues and ice on the turbine blades, the visit was cancelled for safety concerns.

Adrian Harrell, Ninnescah Energy Wind Farm Manager, shared some practical experience with the students. He said taking care of wind generators was a complicated process and the crew members learned something new every day. The maintenance crews have two jobs. They perform the two regular maintenance cycles every year and they repair any problems or breakdowns. Anyone with problems with height, the towers are over 300 feet tall, or has problem with being in on something that moves in the wind, the towers can move 12 feet from side to side, should find a job somewhere else.

Although the towers are in Kansas, they and other NextEra Energy wind farms are controlled from a facility in Florida. They can turn the generators on and off and they can set the blades to turn both clockwise and counter clockwise. The turbines have sensors that send data to the Florida facility and if anything goes wrong, technicians are on duty 24-7 to take care of any problem, Harrell said.

Following their initial presentation in the classroom that included a student getting to try on a safety harness, students got to present their own wind turbine designs to the NextEra employees and got feedback on their designs.

Each team connected their fan blade design to a volt meter then turned on a fan to recreate Kansas wind and checked the volt meter for power production. The students were successful and made electricity, although it was a very small amount.

Each team explained their design and what they had learned during the construction and testing process, Sharp said.

Having the direct feedback from the NextEra Energy team was very beneficial for the students.

There is a very practical element to the project as well. As energy consumers, this project helps them understand what it takes to make electricity to run their cell phones and iPads and computers and all the other electronic devices they use. It also help them understand what it takes to feed the energy use in a community, Sharp said.

Student Colby Barradas said his teams fan had five blades but they did not have an even weight distribution so they had to modify the blades to get the weight right and get the fan to spin evenly. That was the easy part. Doing the necessary research and making the journal entries was hard, Barradas said.

As far as having the NextEra Energy employees visit the classroom, Sharp is a big believer in having a physical presence in the classroom and that it makes a stronger connection with the class project.

Sharp teaches foundations of technology, earth/space science, meteorology and science projects at PHS.

@GaleR_Tribune