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DOE Chooses UMass as One of 12 Collegiate Teams to Qualify for Wind Energy Competition

The U.S. Department of Energy (DOE) has chosen UMass Amherst as one of 12 colleges and universities to compete in the 2016 Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition. The interdisciplinary UMass team hails from the departments of Mechanical and Industrial Engineering (MIE), Electrical and Computer Engineering, and Landscape Architecture & Regional Planning, as well as the Isenberg School of Management. A UMass Amherst team finished third in the inaugural DOE wind competition in 2014. Collegiate Wind Competition.

The Collegiate Wind Competition challenges teams of undergraduate students to design and build a model wind turbine based on market research and siting considerations, develop a business plan to market their products, and test their turbines against a set of rigorous performance criteria. Bringing together the next generation of wind energy pioneers with today's industry leaders, the Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 will take place at the annual American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana, May 23-26, 2016.

The UMass Amherst team of students will be supported by multiple faculty members from across the represented disciplines, as well as graduate student mentors and professional staff on campus, outside professional mentors from a local wind turbine startup company, and the College of Engineering development office. They will have access to the MIE Innovation (machine) Shop and wind tunnel and will receive training and mentoring on their use of those facilities. The students will collectively participate in a two-semester course for credit, taught by multiple faculty members and cross-listed across multiple departments, in the fall semester of 2015 and spring semester of 2016 and focused solely on the Collegiate Wind Competition. The course will be developed to address the three contest areas of the competition in a thoroughgoing manner.

The UMass proposal for entering the competition said that “UMass Amherst is the home of an NSF-funded IGERT: Offshore Wind Energy Engineering, Environmental Impacts, and Policy. This graduate program is focused on education and research applied to an integrated method of design and siting for offshore wind turbines. It has been successful at developing a broad community of researchers with a common goal, and has led to innovative research projects that cut across boundaries, such as electrical engineers and bat biologists collaborating on methodologies for mitigating bat fatalities from wind turbines, or policy, engineering, and environmental students collaborating to develop an online GIS system to support offshore planning.”

In addition, UMass Amherst recently received $357,920 in funding from the NSF to support a Research Experience for Undergraduates (REU) in “Offshore Wind Energy: Solving the Engineering, Environmental & Socio-Economic Challenges.” For the next three summers, this REU will annually support 10 undergraduates interested in exploring research in a wide range of offshore wind-energy topics, including engineering, wildlife ecology, and policy.

UMass is also home to the prestigious Wind Energy Center (WEC), which celebrated its 40th anniversary in 2014, and is the oldest and largest wind energy program in the U.S. The WEC has a long history of wind energy research and education. Faculty members have authored the well-known textbook Wind Energy Explained and have taught multiple wind energy courses at the undergraduate and graduate level.

The inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition took place in 2014 at the American Wind Energy Association (AWEA) Annual Conference and Expo in Las Vegas, Nevada, and was generously supported by General Electric, Vestas, AWEA, and Blattner Energy. Over 150 students from 10 institutions across the country took part in the public event. 

As the announcement from the Department of Engergy noted, “DOE congratulates [2014] first, second, and third place champions Pennsylvania State University, University of Kansas, and University of Massachusetts, respectively.”

The Collegiate Wind Competition combines the expertise of students from a variety of engineering, business, communications, and social science programs and challenges them to utilize their individual skills to develop state-of-the-art wind energy solutions as a team. Intertwining academic coursework with tangible, hands-on learning, the Collegiate Wind Competition provides valuable real-world experience as students prepare to enter the workforce. (March 2015)