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Wind champions: local students take home prizes at Google Wind Challenge

Design competition and fair in The Dalles fosters STEM skills and lots of fun


March 15, 2017

THE DALLES, Ore. – March 13, 2017—Although it was a fierce competition, only a few teams walked away as wind turbine champions earlier today as students from around the Gorge took part in the fourth annual Google Wind Challenge at the Fort Dalles Readiness Center in The Dalles. This year, more than 175 students from 38 local high schools and middle schools competed to build the competition’s top turbines.

During the Wind Challenge, student teams worked together with volunteer mentors to design, build and test their turbines. The colorful, creative machines were then presented to judges Jennifer Christensen, Pam Morse, Barbara Smith, Mary Kramer, George McLean, Dave Mason, Shauna Lichtenthaler, Dana Campbell and Rye Scholin, who selected the winners based on each turbine’s power and efficiency.

The popular Wind Challenge and accompanying STEM fair is sponsored by Google and produced in partnership with Gorge Technology Alliance and Columbia Gorge Community College (CGCC). The event is a culmination of the organizations’ broader efforts to bring hands-on STEM opportunities to area students and inspire the next generation of leaders in these fields.

“We hope the Wind Challenge sparks a lifetime of student and community interest in science and technology,” said Dave Karlson, data center operations manager for Google, and former teacher in The Dalles school district. “We’re proud to be a part of this event and we look forward to supporting more STEM education opportunities within the Gorge community in the future.”

Participants, family and friends and community members also got the chance to take part in the fun by exploring hands-on exhibits at the adjoining STEM fair, featuring from OMSI, Bonneville Power, Gorge MakerSpace, Google Cardboard, Columbia Gorge Community College and more. Visitors to CGCC’s exhibit even got to build their own mini wind turbines.

This year, three high school division winners, three middle school division winners, and two categories of runner ups were selected (see names below). The winning teams received an assortment of fun prizes, including Sphero Sprks, Snap Circuit Kits, Makey Makeys and Tin Can Robot kits for their efforts. County Commissioners Steve Kramer and Rod Runyon were on hand to give out prizes.

Award winners

First place: Henkle Middle School - Wind Busters (middle school team chose to compete in the high school bracket); St. Mary’s Academy - SMA 1.

Second place: Stevenson High School - Bulldog Blue; Corbett Middle School - Sea Manimals.

Third place: Stevenson High School - Bulldog White; 4-H Dufur and The Dalles Middle School - The A Team (aka Breeze).

Runner up awards:

Top electrical energy award for high school: Lyle School - Cougar Wind

Top mechanical energy award for high school: Horizon Christian - Wind Hawks

Top electrical energy award for middle school: Goldendale Middle School - GMS Purple

Top mechanical energy award for middle school: Wishram School - Wishram Team 1

“Once again, these students proved just how much creativity and ingenuity they have through their turbine designs,” said Gorge Technology Alliance Executive Director Jessica Metta. “I think the Wind Challenge shows how fun and engaging STEM education can really be.”

For more information about this year’s Wind Challenge, visit


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