Team Off the Grid members (from left) Jacob Leonard, Tucker Grimshaw, Jonathan Leonard, Josh Grimshaw and Thomas Laughridge with their table and wind turbine in the exhibition hall during last week’s 2017 National KidWind Challenge in Anaheim, Calif.

Team Off the Grid not only won the High School Division in last week’s 2017 National KidWind Challenge in Anaheim, Calif., the five Lord Botetourt and James River High School students also earned a reputation for being respectful and helpful to the other participants in the national event, their coach Wendy Grisham said.

The Herald has chronicled the team since last year when it qualified for its first national competition and earned a sixth place and a judges’ award.

This year, with four returning members on the five-member team, the goal was no longer just make the nationals, it was win the nationals.

Jacob Leonard, Tucker Grimshaw, Jonathan Leonard, Josh Grimshaw and Thomas Laughridge provided the judges with some extraordinary work. The team scored 95.27 out of a possible 100 points in six categories. The second place team from Oklahoma came in with 61.31 points and the third place team from Washington scored 61.18 points.

On May 23, Team Off the Grid arrived in Anaheim for the three-day event equipped with an improved version of the small-scale turbine they designed and built for the Dabney S. Lancaster Community College Regional KidWind Challenge.
May 23 was a practice day, giving the team an opportunity to try the prototype in the highest-speed wind tunnel for the first time.

The boys also set up their presentation table in the 10,000-square-foot exhibition hall, along with 55 other teams from all over the country and the Virgin Islands.

On May 24 and 25, the team continued to fine-tune their turbine’s performance in the wind tunnels, even as they competed with the 22 other high school teams in other events.

Within the competition, teams could earn up to 100 total points in six categories:

  • Energy Produced by the Turbine
  • Turbine Efficiency
  • Instant Challenge— building a vertical axis turbine from recycled materials
  • Instant Challenge— siting a wind farm
  • Presentation to Judges
  • Energy Quiz

Team Off the Grid demonstrated excellence in every challenge category this year.

The team’s turbine led the standings, producing a whopping total of 974.37 joules of energy during 30-second runs in the three different wind speed tunnels, earning 35 of a possible 35 points.

The Off The Grid turbine also ranked highest in turbine efficiency earning 5 of a possible 5 points.  The team also earned 14.07 of a possible 20 points on the Instant Challenges, and 9.1 of a possible 10 points on the Energy Quiz.  The judges were also impressed by the team’s presentation, which earned another 29.1 of a possible 30 points.

“But perhaps the most gratifying part of the KidWind experience was the opportunity to share knowledge, skills and ideas with other students, coaches, wind enthusiast and professionals,” Grisham explained. “Many teams asked our students for advice, tools, spare parts, repair help and lessons on building a machine like the Off the Grid turbine.”

On the last day, the team members had an opportunity to network with hundreds of wind energy company representatives from at least five continents at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Convention, making contacts that may provide internships and employment opportunities in the future.

The team members also proudly shared with any age audience that they live in the area that supports the first wind farm in Virginia— the Apex’s Rocky Forge Wind.

“The National KidWind Challenge award was a dream when the team began practicing in November 2016,” Grisham said. “Six months later, the boys reached the goal and exceeded our expectations with their first place finish and $1,000 prize.”