Oxford USD 358 Freshmen Danny Ball and Austin Gaither, also known as the Oxford Airsharks, were named Overall Champions at the KidWind Nationals Competition in Houston Texas the week of May 20, 2019. In additional, they also won national champion awards in Power Output and Wind Tracking. Last year, the duo took the national title in California for grades 4-8. This was the third year in a row the boys have qualified for nationals.
This year, Ball and Gaither competed in the high school division, which did not affect their ability to become national champions! The Airsharks, competed in the open division, meaning they utilized a generator on their turbine that was not one provided by KidWind. They spent countless hours designing, constructing, and testing their wind turbine, working on their presentation, and preparing for knowledge testing and impromptu challenges.
At the competition, Ball and Gaither tested their turbine in slow, medium, and fast speed wind tunnels, getting top scores in power output for each tunnel. Their turbine also had to track the wind in a tunnel to test for yaw. The boys won this challenge as well. They worked together on two instant challenges; one dealing with offshore wind production and the other addressing tower construction. Knowledge was tested, and the boys had to speak with a consultative judging panel.
When not competing, Danny and Austin were able to tour NASA and attend an Astros ballgame. An evening of games and bowling provided them with an opportunity to interact with other competitors from all over the country.
The Airsharks have made many improvements to their turbine design over the years. They have learned a lot through basic trial and error while working on KidWind. “There are so many facets involving learning about sustainable and alternative energy,” Shelly Graves, one of the teachers that have worked with the boys stated. “We have just touched the tip of the iceberg on this topic. We hope to involve more students in the future.” The boys have already been talking about what they can do to prepare for future competitions, according to Graves.
Elaina Garrett, another of the boys’ teachers described her first experience sponsoring the students at nationals “Amazing!” “It was so fun to stand back and watch all these kids from all over the U.S. talk, collaborate, and network with each other about something they are all so passionate about,” said Garrett.
As wind turbines are now part of the landscape in south-central Kansas, the region can also boast claim to two time national champions in the wind energy arena. Danny Ball and Austin Gaither are two outstanding young men who have represented their school and the Oxford community with pride.