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Engineering students take 2nd place at Collegiate Wind Competition

Wed, 05/28/2014

LAWRENCE — A team of students from the University of Kansas School of Engineering claimed second place in a national wind power competition. The team, known as Jayhawk Windustries, was one of 10 teams from universities around the country selected for the Department of Energy’s inaugural Collegiate Wind Competition, which was earlier this month in Las Vegas.

The competition challenged students to design, fabricate, test and develop a business plan for lightweight, portable wind turbines intended to power small electronic devices. KU earned first-place awards in both the Design and Turbine Performance category and the Business Plan category.

“We did remarkably well, especially for this being the first year of the competition and our first experience with this. We’re all really proud,” said Mary Pat Whittaker, a team member and 2014 graduate in aerospace engineering.

The strong showing from KU is yet another point of distinction for the university in national aerospace design competitions. KU aerospace students continued a long-running tradition of exceptional performance in AIAA student design competitions in fall 2013, when they earned top honors in a total of four team and individual competitions.

“The success by Jayhawk Windustries says a lot about strength of our design programs. KU has a great history in aerospace design competitions, but we’ve never done anything like this,” said Whittaker. “It involved a lot of learning as we went and plenty of trial and error, but it was a lot of fun and a great experience overall.”

Jayhawk Windustries’ performance also marked another accomplishment for KU mechanical engineering students, who have competed in the Shell Eco-Marathon and other national competitions, and played a key role in developing and testing many features of the wind turbine.

The project was part of senior capstone courses taught by Rick Hale, professor of aerospace engineering and project principal investigator, and Christopher Depcik, associate professor of mechanical engineering. A total of 31 business, mechanical engineering and aerospace engineering students made up the fall semester team. Ten students (seven in aerospace engineering and three in mechanical engineering, as part of the KU EcoHawks) participated in the spring semester. 

Team members:

  • Katie Constant, Roeland Park
  • Alejandra Escalera, La Paz, Murillo, Bolivia 
  • Andrew Lichter, Topeka
  • Julian McCafferty, Lawrence
  • Evan Reznicek, Goff
  • James Sellers, Benton
  • Alex Sizemore, Douglass
  • Michael Strickland, Liberal
  • Emily Thompson, Sagle, Idaho
  • Mary Pat Whittaker, Kansas City, Missouri.


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What international senior Zunwu Zhou finds appealing about BMX—the feeling he gets when he nearly defies the laws of physics—is the same appeal he found in chemistry, his major. “When I’m in the lab, I push past the limits of what I think I can do. Sure, there are scientific principles, and chemicals have reactions, but research is about testing those boundaries.” Growing up in Wuhan, China, Zhou tried BMX after first watching it on ESPN. “No one else in my city was riding BMX, and I wanted to be the first,” Zhou says. Now Zhou spends what time he has between classes on a bike at KU’s Wescoe Beach because the smooth surface makes it easy for him to “spin and fix.” To be the first BMX rider in your city, travel 7,200 miles for college, and spend your life breaking chemical bonds, a person must be daring. Not fearless – just willing to accept a worthy dare. Zhou is as daring as they come.
.@KU _SADP students on @KU bschool's KIP team design housing solutions for KS retirees: http://t.co/c6Ss0FsWLL #KUworks http://t.co/1aL3z9Mw47
Explore KU: International student, BMX rider knows no bounds To be the first BMX rider in your city, travel 7,200 miles for college, and spend your life breaking chemical bonds, a person must be daring. Meet Zunwu Zhou: a senior international student and chemistry major from Wuhan, China. His favorite things are rock chalk and sick tricks.


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