Maine students take on 2023 Simmons Windstorm Challenge

Published: May. 12, 2023 at 5:51 PM EDT
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ORONO, Maine (WABI) - Friday saw the return of the Simmons Windstorm Challenge at the University of Maine.

The 2023 installment brought roughly 600 middle and high school students from across the state.

For some, they’ve spent an entire semester planning, designing, and creating models of floating platforms.

“It’s been busy. It’s been busy, but that’s what makes it so fun. You’re here, you’re doing actual engineering work. It’s actual work in the field. It’s fun,” said John Bapst student Alex True.

Watching your team’s creation being tested by wind and wave simulations can be both exhilarating and terrifying.

“Is it gonna break? Is it gonna fall over? Is something going to float off? Everything’s going through my mind like at 400 miles a second,” said Islesboro Central School student Louie Glotzl.

Each group brings their own approach to the challenge at hand.

But even if it doesn’t work perfectly at the start, students can regroup, rethink, and retest.

“It’s about overcoming obstacles, being able to pick yourself up and dust yourself off,” said John Bapst student Julianna Clark.

For Medway Middle School, this was the first year that they competed.

“Definitely a learning experience. We had to come up with recycled material and all that. We were there as a backboard. They had to brainstorm it, figure out the materials, and then they shot it off us, and then we troubleshooted it. And then just watching them go and then today to see their faces and awe. I think we’re the youngest team here. So, they’re kind of in awe hoping for a win, but as I said, it’s not about the winning. It’s about having fun,” said Medway Middle School teacher Katy Pangburn.

Of course, the day is also about inspiring young minds to solve the problems of tomorrow.

“I just love being able to create and maybe hopefully make a difference in the world,” said Clark.

The winning team at the high school level is awarded an internship worth $20,000 at the University’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center if they attend UMaine.