Lori Burkhart is Editor-in-Chief of Public Utilities Fortnightly.
Building a wind turbine for competition, following the clues to escape from an energy-themed breakout room or pedaling a bicycle to see the energy it takes to power various types of light bulbs — these are examples of the experiences the Kansas Corporation Commission's Kansas Energy Division provides to more than thirteen thousand Kansas students.
The Energy program's biggest educational success story to date has been the Kansas KidWind Challenge. As thousands of wind turbines spin against the backdrop of the Kansas prairie, students across the state are studying the process of converting wind to energy with a specific goal in mind. They've set their sights on winning the Kansas KidWind Challenge.
Student teams work together to design, build, and test a wind turbine using materials of their choice. Scoring is based on turbine performance, a knowledge quiz, and a presentation to judges where the team explains its design process. The winning teams at regional events advance to the state finals. State winners move on to the national competition.
KidWind grew from one event with seventeen teams in 2018 to five regional events with eighty-eight teams in 2020. Due to the pandemic, KidWind was virtual in 2021, but is back bigger and better than ever for 2022. The competition is open to students in grades four through twelve.
K-12 Energy Star Benchmarking, the newest program introduced by the Energy Division, holds exciting possibilities for educating students and saving schools money on energy costs. Participant schools form an energy team to benchmark and understand the school's energy use.
The team conducts an energy efficiency treasure hunt using professional energy auditing equipment to look for ways to reduce energy loss and save money. Those findings lead to an energy efficiency campaign within the school followed by measuring cost reductions.
Kansas Corporation Commission conversations: