The sixth annual Google Wind Challenge is blowing into the Gorge Saturday, March 16, at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center in The Dalles.

Teams of high school and middle school students from throughout the region will race against the clock in an all-day competition to build the strongest, fastest wind turbines. Throughout the day, teams will learn about wind turbine technology and design, and apply that learning to building, testing and presenting a wind turbine model to a group of judges.

Prizes will be awarded to three high school and three middle school teams based on each turbine’s power and efficiency.

“Each year, we are wowed by students’ clever designs,” said Gorge Technology Alliance Executive Director Jessica Metta. “The Wind Challenge is an example of how you can make STEM education captivating and interactive.”

In 2018, 190 students from 16 teams competed in the challenge. This year, 46 teams are registered to compete.

Action takes place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. as teams design and assemble their wind turbines, and the public is invited to watch the teams compete.

A hands-on STEM fair will also be on site with activities to engage students and the general public from 11:30 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Those attending can take a Tower Challenge with Gorge STEM Hub, build a mini-wind turbine of their own with CGCC or paint in 3D space with virtual reality using Google Tilt Brush.

The fair will feature interactive activities from Gorge MakerSpace, Google, Columbia Gorge Community College, FIRST Tech Challenge teams and more. Activities are geared to students of all ages, and the fair is free.

An awards ceremony will be held at 3 p.m. The Dalles city councilor Darcy Long-Curtiss will be among the guest speakers.

The competition and fair is sponsored by Google and produced in partnership with Gorge Technology Alliance and Columbia Gorge Community College.

“We’re looking forward to seeing what these students create on Saturday,” Google data center operations manager Dave Karlson said. “The Wind Challenge has become a great community tradition over the past six years, and we’re always so amazed at what they accomplish. We want all of our students to have fun this weekend, but our ultimate goal is to help them find their passion in STEM.”

During the Wind Challenge, teams of three to six students work with the support of volunteer mentors as they build, test and present their turbine models. Teams compete for free, and all materials are provided.

“With the work we do to support STEM education in the region, it is a natural fit for the Gorge Technology Alliance to be involved,” said Metta. “We are looking forward to the event!”

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