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Wind workshop spins up new ideas for teachers

By JUDY SHERARD

jsherard@dailynews.net

Teachers attending a two-day wind energy workshop at Sternberg Museum of Natural History were getting hands-on experience Thursday.

Dean Stramel, a Fort Hays State University adjunct professor in chemistry, led the workshop for about 25 K-12 teachers. This is the third summer Stramel has taught workshops about wind energy.

Some of the participants worked in groups and others individually constructing windmills with hubs forming the center. They used duct tape and hot glue to keep them together, and balsa wood or corrugated plastic for the blades.

"You're going to try to make the best blades you can," Stramel said.

Some blades were rounded and some came to a blunt point.

Using a wind tunnel, the object was to see "who can generate the most ampage, the most voltage and watts. The person who can generate the most watts is going to win a prize," he said.

After putting their own windmills to the test today, the group was scheduled to tour a wind farm near Ellsworth.

"Kids like to do hands-on activities, and I think they learn a little bit better from that," said Amy Hageman, a Medicine Lodge physics and chemistry teacher attending the workshop.

The K-12 teachers learned activities they can do in their own classrooms, "collecting data, measuring, all kinds of applications. It's a tool to get the kids interested, pay attention and think," Stramel said.

After teaching science for 12 years, Cory Degnan, Ulysses, wanted to try something different, so he will be teaching fifth grade this fall. He's attended several FHSU summer workshops looking for new ideas and plans to implement parts of what he learned at the workshop with his fifth-grade class.

"It's an up-and-coming industry in Kansas, and I'm always looking for something new, something different my students might be interested in," said Alison Neely, who teaches physical science at J.C. Harmon High School, Kansas City.

Jerry Bollig, Silver Lake High School physics and chemistry teacher, agreed. He attended the workshop to learn more about alternative energy.

"It's the incoming thing. It's cheap energy. It's renewable energy," he said. "This is something that will be around for quite a while."

Hageman said there are a couple of wind farms near the Medicine Lodge school, and she hopes to take some of her students there on a field trip.

"It's had a huge impact on our community," she said.