Wind Turbines: Collaborative, Interdisciplinary Learning at BHHS

"This project has done a lot to help us see how even though they're all different subjects - Science, Technology, Math - there's a big crossing point.  Also, it's helped us work together, developing collaborative skills in order to create something out of an idea.  We've worked hard, taught each other new things, learned new things, and overall it's just been a really fun project to do," shares Tony Nwagwu, a 12th grade AP Statistics student at BHHS.


Students in AP Statistics, AP Environmental Science, and Computer Science came together to create wind turbines in the Design and Technology workshop at BHHS.  Emily Handy, AP Statistics teacher, explains, "the students are in groups that were pre-selected, and are a mixture of the three different classes.  They're working with students in classes that they don't necessarily know.  They're all doing the building and the measuring, but then they're all doing different things with the results that pertain to our classes."  AP Environmental Studies teacher Angela Bitterman-Weston adds, "I thought it would be important for them to be able to work with different classes.  They're using data that they've obtained, which makes it more meaningful for them."


11th grade student Mia DeCerchio, who takes AP Environmental Science, shares, "in class, we're learning about renewable energy sources, so that connects to the wind turbines.  We're also learning about non-renewable sources like coal and fossil fuels that are polluting the atmosphere and creating greenhouse gases.  I never have taken any engineering classes; I usually do more theater, so it's fun to get to do this!"  Becca Hancock, a 12th grader in AP Environmental Science, explains, "I learned more about the machinery that we have in here, and how different angles can affect the amount of wind that each turbine can catch, and if it'll spin faster, slower, clockwise or counter-clockwise."  An 11th grade student in AP Environmental Studies, Ava Getz, explains, "My group was assigned to make a turbine with four blades.  We had to do research on what blades would have the best friction, balance and pitch.  So we made one with a curved design so the wind could go around.  It's fun; I like it!  When I was in middle school, I did shop, and this is the closest thing to that, so it's been a few years.  I like AP Environmental Science; it's a great class!"  


Students in the AP Statistics class share their perspectives on the experience: Darian Davis, 12th grader, explains, "Being in the Stats class, instead of looking at it in a scientific way of how efficiently we could make it and how the different designs vary in responses, I was interested in looking at it from the statistics point of view.  It was ok if we didn't succeed, it was just interesting to see what worked and didn't work."  Another 12th grade student in AP Statistics, Erika Folbe, explains, "I learned how the number of blades affect the volts of the turbine.  Our turbine, that had five blades, had a higher voltage than another group that had four blades.  It may have been the blades' shapes, but it was cool to see how ours had more blades and spun faster."  And Anish Tamhaney, 12th grader, shares, "By varying all the characteristics, we're seeing which ones are more efficient and which ones absorb more wind.  Based on that, we'll use statistical analyses to see what characteristics make a better wind turbine, and whether the different data sets are statistically relevant."


9th grade student Aaron Wolf, who takes Computer Science, shares, "this project helped us meet new people and connect multiple grade levels together that normally would not be combined."  Fellow Computer Science student, 9th grader Noah Eaton, adds, "This connects with Computer Science because we had to collect data on the area of the blades, degrees of the blades, and also the amount of voltage it created.  We're going to enter all the data into a program and organize and analyze the data."


Computer Science teacher Dave Zulkiewski shares, "Our two STEM classes will take all this data and re-do this project on a three-to-four week scale.  Those students will 3D print their blades; they'll use different manufacturing methods, more testing methods and calculations.  Right now, we're doing the ground work for them."  The design classroom at Bloomfield Hills High School houses one of the two 3D printers in the building.  The wind turbine project is an example of interdisciplinary learning at its best, allowing students to see the connections that can be made between courses, and fostering friendships between grade levels and classes.  Thank you to teachers Bitterman-Weston, Handy, and Zulkiewski for leading your students in this interactive and educational endeavor!



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