Wyoming Students Win STEM Challenge

Students at Hot Springs High School in Thermopolis, Wyoming are the proud winners of the Texas Instruments TI-Nspire STEM Challenge and earned $10,000 in Texas Instruments CX equipment for the classroom. The students’ winning project took advantage of the billowing wind in their home state, which aimed to learn how energy harnessed from it could decrease their school’s carbon footprint.

Trigonometry teacher Brenda Peterman, physics teacher London Jenks and chemistry teacher Donna Daniels participated in the project, which the students dubbed “When the Wind Blows”.

14 other schools across the nation participated in the challenge, which involved using TI’s new TI-Nspire CX technology—a line of handheld, full-color 3D graphing calculators—in their curriculum.

Student Kaylee Groh measures data

“In our community, the wind blows everywhere,” teacher Brenda Peterman said. “The challenge we faced was identifying an issue the community might need to address in the future. We considered our school’s usage of energy and asked, could we find alternative ways to supply it?”

In the project-based learning activity, the trigonometry class developed different prototypes of wind turbines, tested them at different areas and heights and then made a recommendation to the physics class of what prototype they should construct. The physics class put together the prototype and recorded the results.

Drawing of the turbine prototype

Watch a video of the prototype in action.

“We asked ourselves, would it be feasible to provide the school with wind energy?” Peterman said. Though the students may have won the challenge, the project in the Thermopolis community is still ongoing. “We plan to continue investigation in future classes until we get an ideal model that will supply at least part of our energy.” 

Between March and April, Thermopolis gets its strongest winds. The state’s geography of high-altitude prairies and broad ridges makes it an ideal site for the development of wind resources.

The class used graphing calculators to produce sinusoidal models—I’ll need Wikipedia’s help on this one—in order to visually represent the data from their testing.

“The project was very inquisitive,” Peterman said. “They enjoyed the relevance of the project and seemed to enjoy not having the answers and having to discover them on their own. This was my first experience with project-based learning, and I intend to develop that aspect of teaching in the math classrooms.”

The 45 students involved in the project used the latest models of graphing technology to complete a project relevant to their community, and stands as an impressive achievement of STEM classroom learning. Read more about the project, including the various PDF reports generated by the sub-groups of students during the project at their When the Wind Blows blog.