Kidwind REcharge Academy Brings Educators to New Mexico

pattern stories
Written by:
Ed Domain

The 2022 Class of REcharge Educators from across the U.S.

KidWind hosted its 16th annual REcharge Academy at Santa Fe Community College on July 18-21.

KidWind was founded by sixth-grade teacher Michael Arquin in 2003 when he became frustrated with the lack of quality teaching materials to teach the science of wind energy. 

Michael started KidWind, which focuses on three areas (teacher training [REcharge Academy], curricula and materials, and the KidWind Challenge) with an initial investment of only $1,000.

This tiny town has its own hospital and subdivision; will it get power? (The silver road ‘stripes’ are made of silver tape that conducts electricity—the black is construction paper laid over it).

Renewable energy is a growing field that attracts workers from disciplines as varied as education and oil.  One way to prepare for the future workforce is to get kids interested while they are still in school, and this is the mission of KidWind and REcharge Academy.

With KidWind, students participate in hands-on learning exercises and compete in local, state, and national competitions. By participating, the students receive an education in renewable energy that covers engineering, electricity, and more. In addition, by letting students learn about this fast-growing field in a fun environment, they see that there are many career paths in renewable energy.

KidWind has been around long enough that some of its early graduates are now adults, who have cited KidWind as an early inspiration to work in wind. 

This imaginary medical center has POWER

The 2022 REcharge Academy 

The mission of the REcharge Academy is to train teachers from around the U.S., providing them with an immersive week focused wholly on renewable energy.

Trivia: Are more blades on a turbine better, or worse? 

REcharge challenges teachers to learn the projects their kids will do, such as building their own energy grid and wind turbine. This year’s event in Santa Fe also included information-packed tours of Santa Fe Community College’s impressive high-tech facility and Los Alamos, as well as  expert guest speakers, such as Dr. Jacqueline Waite, Ph.D.

Dr. Waite gives a presentation on energy transition to the educators at REcharge 2022

Dr. Waite, the Clean Energy Program Manager for the State of New Mexico’s Energy Conservation and Management Division, discussed renewable energy transmission—after the wind turbine spins, how does the power it generates get to where it’s going?

A slide from Dr. Waite’s presentation

In New Mexico, projects like Pattern Energy’s Western Spirit Transmission are an example.  Upon its completion at the end of 2021, Western Spirit Transmission nearly doubled the transmission capacity available to wind generation locations in east-central New Mexico. The 345 kV line now reinforces the state’s power grid through increased capacity, resilience, and redundancy.

It’s one of many reasons Pattern Energy supports KidWind and its REcharge Academy, and awards scholarships to educators each year to attend. Pattern believes in supporting the communities we serve, and helping KidWind provide educators with appropriate tools and knowledge for their students is a privilege and an honor. 

Teachers from across the U.S.

Brittney Van Der Werff, the Communications and Outreach Specialist for New Mexico Epscor, was in attendance all week, sharing her knowledge and mission with the educators. The mission of NM EPSCoR (New Mexico’s Established Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) is to help develop the state’s capacity for scientific research and cultivate a diverse, well-qualified workforce.

A presentation by Britney Van Der Werff, NM EPSCoR 

REcharge to KidWind

The assembled educators also learned about wind energy generation, transmission and management by building their town on cardboard before providing power. 

After educators built their towns, they constructed wind turbines and had to test them in wind tunnels, just like KidWind participants do at challenges around the country. 

Based on the exclamations and reports from teachers as they tested their creations, they agreed on the fun aspect and couldn’t wait to take it back to their students when the new school year starts. There was appropriate competitiveness in the wind turbine challenge—it’s hard not to get emotionally invested as you watch your hand-built turbine get torn to shreds in the wind tunnel or excited when your turbine spins majestically into the howling wind, generating electricity along the way!

(Left to right) Andy Swapp (Mesalands Community College, Tucumcari) and Alan Daugherty (Melrose Schools, Melrose) contemplate the renewable energy future.

Successful week of learning

REcharge Academy had educators from around the U.S. attend, and for their part, the New Mexico teachers said they were impressed. 

“Pattern Energy provided me with a scholarship to attend REcharge Academy, and it’s been an incredible week,” said Savannah Sewell, a teacher at Capitan Elementary in Capitan, New Mexico. “Being from a rural area, I’m really excited to bring this back to our school. I know the students will love it, and it’s also a great education with fun projects.” 

Other educators had similar comments, and it was apparent everyone took pride in what they had built, even if it didn’t always work. “That’s the magic of learning,” laughed one educator as his mini town failed to light up, and he went to work fixing it. 

“I love seeing how enthusiastic the New Mexican teachers are—this is what it’s all about,” Arquin said with a smile. “The enthusiasm of New Mexico—of all these teachers—it’s inspiring to see their enthusiasm grow, and I’m excited to see what comes next as they bring it back to their classrooms.”

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