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Granite Park's windmill a winner

Published July 19, 2012 11:27 am

Competition • Three-time state champs bring home silver, bronze medals.
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The hard work and dedication of a group of students and their teacher paid off recently for Granite Park Junior High School.

Four ninth-graders and their teacher traveled to Seattle at the end of June to compete in the MESA USA National Engineering Design Competition.

The school has been named state champions three times, and this year returned from the national competition with a silver and a bronze medal.

This year's theme was a Windmill Energy Challenge in which each team designed and built a windmill to complete several tasks. Ninth-graders Ana Cuevas, Amisha Dulal, Hawa Hahir and Najma Sharif were accompanied by their adviser, Blaine Petersen, an honors science teacher at the school who has been in charge of MESA for the past five years.

Dulal, a refugee from Nepal, said the task was frustrating at times. Taking elementary materials and making a working and efficient windmill seemed nearly impossible. Petersen's encouragement and the girls' will to succeed helped guide them through the process.

"We weren't going to do the windmill competition at first," Dulal said, "but he inspired us. He told us we could do it if we tried. He's a great teacher."

At nationals, the Granite Junior High team took second place in design efficiency, which measures the greatest ratio of device performance to device mass. The team also took third in mechanical power, which considered the greatest mass raised in the shortest time.

Dulal said the national competition was often intimidating.

"There were a lot of people there," she said. "We were so nervous. It was interesting seeing the other teams' windmills and machines. At first we didn't think we were going to do well, but it turns out we did."

The ultimate goal of the MESA competition is to create an environment that helps foster a love of engineering and other mathematics- and science-based fields for students who are otherwise disadvantaged or underrepresented. With a growing minority population in Utah, Petersen said he believes the mission of the organization is more important than ever.

"These kids are out here designing things to make products better, and it will ultimately make our lives better," he said. "They're going to be just as competitive in the workforce as they are in the district, state and national competitions."

The highlight of the trip was a visit to the Boeing factory in Mukilteo, Wash., the world's largest building by volume. The girls were able to see airplanes like the 747 and 767 built right in front of them.

After spending her time turning crude materials into a working windmill, Dulal was inspired to see the same thing happening on a much grander scale on the Boeing floor.

"That's what I want to do in the future," she said. "I'd like to work with airplanes."


At a glance

Honors science teacher Blaine Petersen and mathematics teacher Andy Marks were advisers for the MESA team.

Petersen's previous class, now at Cottonwood High School, also placed at the national competition.

The students competed against schools from Arizona, California, Colorado, Maryland, New Mexico, Oregon and Washington at nationals.