Undergraduate students take on Wind for Schools project

By Shelby Condit

Two Colorado State University undergraduate students, Renee Farnes and Drayton Browning, have taken on roles in the Wind for Schools project at the CSU Energy Institute. Wind for Schools is a program funded by the U.S. Department of Energy that aims to bring education initiatives and hands on learning to K-12 students, as well as opportunities for experience in college programs. Farnes and Browning will be visiting schools, sharing their knowledge about wind turbines and engineering, and inspiring students in Colorado to pursue a career in renewable energy.

In Colorado, there are 13 schools from Walsh to Mesa that have a small-scale Wind for Schools turbine on school property. These turbines and the complex systems that monitor them all need to be maintained.

Under the guidance of doctoral student Hailey Summers, Browning and Farnes are responsible for diagnosing and troubleshooting the data communication systems for all 13 wind turbines. “Working with these two is fast-paced and rewarding, as they are usually three steps ahead of me at all times,” said Summers.

Drayton Browning (left) and Renee Farnes (right) stand with a model wind turbine located in the open lab space at the Powerhouse Energy Campus. Farnes and Browning are undergraduate students in the mechanical engineering program at CSU and work as interns for the Wind for Schools program, a K-12 education initiative funded by the U.S. Department of Energy. Photo by Shelby Condit.

Browning is a junior in the undergraduate mechanical engineering program at CSU and one of twelve students awarded a summer internship through Alan Cogen’s $100,000 gift to the Energy Institute. “Drayton is an incredibly hard worker,” said Summers, adding, “He has excelled at his position.”

Alongside Browning is Renee Farnes, a senior in the mechanical engineering program at CSU with a minor in energy engineering. In her internship with the Wind for Schools program, she focuses on ensuring the computers that store data collected from the wind turbines (such as wind speed and the amount of power being produced) are functioning properly.

“Due to their strong background in electronic communications and mechanical operations, they have managed to complete the primary objectives outlined with ease and fill in the remaining time with creative, innovative and high-valued work to the Wind for Schools initiative,” said Summers.

The project has been a great opportunity for students to simultaneously learn applicable skills and share their own experience. Farnes has enjoyed applying real life problem solving skills to new challenges and looks forward to the chance to teach kids about engineering. “I’m excited to teach kids if we can. I would really like to inspire a younger generation in pursuing this career, especially women,” she said.

Jason Quinn is an assistant professor of mechanical engineering at CSU and oversees the project at the Energy Institute. Quinn says he’s enjoyed working with Browning and hopes to see him develop presentation skills both technical and non-technical, related to sustainability.

In turn Browning said there are a lot of perks to the job, including traveling to different areas of Colorado and working with Quinn, whose enthusiasm is contagious. Browning said his favorite aspect of this project is getting to work at the CSU Powerhouse Energy Campus, the flagship facility for the Energy Institute. “It’s a cool environment here,” he said, referring to the both the building itself and the diverse areas of energy research.

Learn more about our involvement with the Wind for Schools project, and follow us on social media @CSUEnergy to stay up to date on our K-12 initiatives.