Hopkins team gets invite to Department of Energy’s Collegiate Wind Competition

March 30, 2020


Hopkins Wind Energy Team

Hopkins Wind Energy Team

A team from Johns Hopkins University is one of 13 invited to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy’s 2021 Collegiate Wind Competition.

Wind energy is one of the most widely used alternative energy sources across the United States. The annual Collegiate Wind Competition aims to prepare undergraduate students to enter the wind energy workforce by connecting them with industry leaders and providing hands-on experience. Participating teams will design, build, and test a model wind turbine that can stand up to the challenge of a massive wind tunnel. Each team will also go through the process of researching and delivering a wind farm development plan.

Teams were chosen through a proposal submission to the Department of Energy, with the selected teams receiving $20,000 each to construct their turbine and to send team members to the competition.

The newly-established Hopkins Wind Energy Team (HWET) will represent the university for the first time in the 2021 competition, the date and location of which is yet to be announced.

Led by Willa Grinsfelder, a junior majoring in mechanical engineering and the writing seminars, the interdisciplinary HWET team includes students from mechanical engineering, environmental engineering, environmental science, international studies, and economics.

HWET strives to improve the network of renewable energy and sustainable business extracurricular opportunities for Johns Hopkins undergraduate students, as well as in the broader Baltimore community, Grinsfelder says.

Although HWET members come from various disciplines across the university, they have one thing in common – all are passionate about addressing the challenges of building a more sustainable energy future.

“When I was a freshman, I had little idea of how I could leverage my coursework to prepare myself for a career in the renewable energy sector. HWET is a space for undergraduate students to explore how their coursework can be applied to the critical question of how humans can continue to live on Earth,” Grinsfelder said. “With the help of seniors Thomas Howard, founder of the sustainability hackathon Green Hacks, and Colin Bowen of the Refuel our Future student group, we hope to advance the work they’ve already started to increase undergraduate opportunities in sustainability initiatives on campus and in the world.”

Initially, HWET will focus on building a strong team for the Collegiate Wind Competition, under the guidance of Hopkins faculty and industry mentors. To prepare for the competition, students will break into sub-teams and focus on specific tasks, such as blade design, financial analysis, safety protocols, and policy grounding.

“One of the most important aspects of HWET is that we have students studying a range of disciplines at Hopkins. Diverse perspectives not only color our design and development plan decisions for the competition, but also serve as an invaluable resource for incoming students interested in the renewable energy field. Experience in a range of disciplines, as well as advice and encouragement from other students in the curriculum selection process, can truly shape how students see themselves contributing to a sustainable future,” adds Grinsfelder.

Later on, Grinsfelder says, HWET hopes to implement more on-campus activities like faculty talks and networking events. The group plans to partner with companies to provide internship opportunities, and host trips to wind farms and other wind energy competitions.

“Many Hopkins students are interested in sustainability, climate change, and renewable energy. It’s time to create a wind energy curriculum at Johns Hopkins University that any student—no matter their year or ability level— can participate in,” says Nathan Scott, associate teaching professor in the Whiting School of Engineering and HWET’s lead advisor. “A wind energy competition team will help our students understand what it means to pursue renewable energy, and create the next set of motivated, technically-proficient professionals that can add their voices to the development of wind energy in the United States.”

In addition to Johns Hopkins University, the colleges and universities selected to participate in the  2021  Collegiate Wind Competition are:

  • Brigham Young University
  • California Polytechnic State University – San Luis Obispo
  • California State University Maritime Academy
  • James Madison University
  • Kansas State University
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Texas Tech University
  • The Pennsylvania State University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Wisconsin–Madison
  • Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University
  • Washington State University – Everett


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