Nazareth Area High School alumnus on winning wind turbine team – The Express

May 27, 2014 by  
Filed under Green Energy News

A Nazareth Area High School alumnus was on the team that won first place in a national contest to build a wind turbine.

Getting to the top wasn’t smooth sailing for Michael Popp. The 22-year-old Nazareth resident joined 15 Penn State classmates who built a lightweight transportable wind turbine that could be used during emergencies to power small electronic devices such as cellphones.

The team arrived in Las Vegas earlier this month for the three-day U.S. Department of Energy’s Collegiate Wind Competition. After a year of tinkering and testing, a rotor came off and exploded during their final test before the contest.

“We were devastated,” Popp said.

The team researched where they could gain a new set of blades overnight. They found the original printer, Solid Concepts, had an operation in Los Angeles. An aerospace graduate student advising the team rented a car and drove an eight-hour round trip to California and back with the blades.

“It was an amazing comeback,” Popp said.

The team was grilled by a panel of five judges, including power systems and wind product experts, who weighed each team’s engineering design, business plan and marketing strategy. Popp called it a “shark tank” experience.

Popp said using a small-scale wind turbine to power small electronics is a more effective and efficient way to keep devices charged than solar power.

“Wind turbines can be used both day and night as long as there is wind,” he said. “They are also more efficient at producing power compared to solar panels and take up less space. You might not realize it, but there is a ton of energy in the wind.

“Being able to harness that power and let Mother Nature help you charge your cellphone or laptop is pretty awesome,” he added.

Popp majored in aerospace engineering due to his passion for rockets and planes. The recent graduate plans to enroll in a master’s program.

The contest had 150 students representing 10 schools. Penn State won first place overall, the People’s Choice award and the Market Issues Contest award.

“The experience was awesome,” Popp said. “The most I got out of this project was learning not just the engineering side, but some of the business side of it. A lot of effort went into the whole process.”

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