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NC Renewable Energy Challenge winners. Four students from First Flight Middle and High Schools.
Hannah Nash
First Flight Secondary Teams with 1st place awards at the NC Energy Challenge.

NC Renewable Energy Challenge champions from First Flight High School and First Flight Middle School (left to right): Alex Sharps, Autumn Sailor, Harry Lipchak, and Ethan Michler. Photo credit: Duke Wallin

Teams from First Flight Middle School and First Flight High School secured first place in the 2024 NC Renewable Energy Challenge for their respective Ocean Wind Turbine and Ocean Turbine projects. The competition, held annually to promote innovation and sustainability in energy solutions, attracted over 25 teams from across the state to the Coastal Studies Institute (CSI) campus on Roanoke Island.

Seventh grader Ethan Michler and eighth grader Harry Lipchak took home first place in the middle school Wind Challenge. Their elegantly designed generator impressed judges and was tested in a wind tunnel with an energy output of 11,304.0 mW. In addition to the turbine test, students presented their project to a panel of judges and participated in instant challenges throughout the day. The two middle school students and their coach/STEM teacher, Elizabeth Gray, will move on to represent North Carolina in the World KidWind competition in Minneapolis, MN scheduled for May 5-8, 2024. 

For the high school Ocean Current Challenge, First Flight High School sophomores Autumn Sailor and Alex Sharps created an underwater turbine that garnered praise from the judges for its practicality and creativity. Their comprehensive approach included designing and implementing an ocean current turbine that would create an energy output from powerheads being placed underwater in a flume tank. Both students also presented their prototype to a panel of judges and participated in instant challenges. There is currently no national competition beyond the state challenge. 

The success of these teams is a testament to their dedication and hard work, supported by the invaluable assistance of district staff members in their respective schools. Special appreciation is extended to Ashley Basnight, Brian dePedro, Mike Phelan, and Duke Wallin for their encouragement. The unwavering support of family and community members, who cheered on the teams during the challenges, also contributed significantly to their success.

The NC Renewable Energy Challenge is part of the state's commitment to fostering a culture of renewable energy and environmental stewardship among its youth. The competition challenges students to develop and showcase sustainable energy solutions that address real-world challenges.