Turbine techies

Youngsters learn about windmills, park design

Above, Mik Kilpela, civil engineer for the city of Marquette, helps his daughter, Anneli, 3, place a homemade wind turbine in sand. The trays were placed in front of a fan in such a way as to maximize their spinning. Below, Peyton Scott, 6, of Harvey, and K.I. Sawyer Elementary School teacher Mary Burbey create wind turbines Wednesday at the Peter White Public Library. The Explore Tech program is one of many scheduled through October. (Journal photos by Christie Bleck)

MARQUETTE — They weren’t intended to power the city of Marquette, but they were fun to make.

Participants at a special Wednesday event entitled “Explore Tech: Family Engineering Challenge: Design a Park and Wind Turbines!” created their own miniature wind turbines in the children’s room at the Peter White Public Library.

Leading the event was Mik Kilpela, civil engineer for the city of Marquette, who has some experience in this arena. However, for Wednesday’s purpose, he was on hand to help people build a small-scale wind farm.

There was some strategy involved.

“It’s basically positioning the windmills in a certain fashion so that there isn’t wind shadow, so that one windmill isn’t blocking the wind from another windmill,” Kilpela said. “Just try to maximize the amount of spinning in the wind.”

This basic concept was taught by teaching them to make small windmills, or turbines if you will, with paper and a pencil. They also designed a play park, deciding what structures were to go where and even making them.

The old craft standby, pipe cleaners, came in handy for this purpose.

It was the sort of educational activity that attracted Mary Burbey, a second-grade teacher at Sawyer Elementary School.

She wanted to learn about designing a park because of her area of expertise at Sawyer.

“Since I teach social studies, I’m trying to see if I can come up with a good technology plan for what they need to do on their new Chromebooks,” said Burbey, who noted the students are getting new ones this year.

She also struck up a friendship with fellow participant Peyton Scott, 6, of Harvey.

“I’m just a teacher that likes to talk to kids,” Burbey said.

Peyton responded: “I’m a kid who likes to talk to teachers.”

Kilpela started the participants out by teaching them how to cut a windmill out of paper, and then having them attach the paper objects to a pencil.

What each person created was a toy.

What they did with those toys ventured a little into the science and engineering world.

They put the windmills into trays and placed them in front of a fan, changing the arrangements in a way that would make them spin more efficiently.

The Explore Tech program was one of many scheduled through October at the library. PWPL’s Youth Services is hosting a special traveling exhibit, Explore Tech: Engineers Make a World of Difference!, which is available to kids and adults through Oct. 11 in the children’s room.

The goal of the exhibit is to increase understanding of the importance of technology and engineering in the community.

The exhibit has informational display panels, a computer kiosk with interactive engineering games and a Discovery Table. The table includes Cubelet Robots, LEGO DUPLOs, Keva Planks Brain Teaser, Snap Circuits, Monkey Gears, Hoop and Glider, and more.

The project was made possible through the support of a National Science Foundation grant.

The next Explore Tech event is “Levers at Work,” which is scheduled for 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Thursday at the Marquette Arts and Culture Center, located in the lower level of the library. The event is part of the library’s Masterminds of All Kinds program.

For more information, call 906-226-4320 or visit www.pwpl.info.

Christie Bleck can be reached at 906-228-2500, ext. 250. Her email address is cbleck@miningjournal.net.