No one enjoys making mistakes on the job.
But errors are often essential in determining how to improve operations. You won’t know what practices will work more efficiently until you’ve found out what doesn’t work.
Students from several schools put their creativity to the test April 21 by participating in the Wind Blade Challenge organized each year by the Jefferson-Lewis Board of Cooperative Educational Services. Five teams of middle school youths gathered at the Lewis County/Jefferson Community College Education Center in Lowville to design and construct wind turbine using cardboard, paper, tape, glue and dowels. Their wind turbines had to pass two tests in the challenge overseen by BOCES Engineering and Design Department instructor Walter J. Berwick Jr.
“Teams from Carthage Central Middle School — The Windy Team and The Blade — as well as the Wildcats from Adirondack Middle School, either hit major snags with their original designs with low or no score in the first round of testing for the blades’ electricity generation and lift or thought they could do better in their second round, causing them to reconsider their blade designs and make some changes. The Blade members said they changed ‘basically everything’ after scoring no points in the first round of tests, making their blades bigger and more ‘air catching’ after, they said, they ‘learned from our mistakes,’” according to a story published April 23 by the Watertown Daily Times. “Two teams representing River Valley Mennonite School in Croghan — an all-boys team called The Kings and an all-girls team known as the Lionesses — were in first and second place, respectively, after they completed both rounds of testing performed and recorded by Mr. Berwick’s students. Both groups said they came into the competition with their designs already worked out and although they each wanted to win the competition, they were even more interested in beating each other. The Kings placed second overall and the Lionesses third, and the girls were not looking forward to the smack-talk expected to ensue on the ride home, they said with a laugh. Members of the top three teams all received blue tooth speakers and the winning team members were given small drones made possible through event sponsors Avangrid Renewables. Win or lose, many of the competitors said they enjoyed the teamwork, the challenge and the free cookies among other benefits. … The Engineering and Design program [at Jefferson-Lewis BOCES] has been educating juniors and seniors in the Carthage, Copenhagen, South Lewis, Lowville, Adirondack, Beaver River and town of Webb school districts for more than eight years.”
Friendly competitions such as the Wind Blade Challenge provide students with the opportunity to show what they know. It compels them to put their critical thinking skills to use while solving a problem. And Berwick certainly understands how important these events are for the future of this BOCES program and the post-school workforce.
“For Mr. Berwick, the competition has the added benefit of being a recruiting tool for the engineering field in general but also to help grow his program that currently has only eight students primarily because students were unable to visit his class to see what the program was about — the main avenue students follow to his class — during the pandemic,” the article reported.
These activities bring out the best in students and help them focus their thinking in the most constructive ways. This shows the value of the BOCES system in preparing young minds to address society’s pending challenges.
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