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May 1, 2015

Collegiate Wind Competition 2016 | May 2015



Drs. Robb and Alexander stand in front of the wind tunnel in LANG 122

California State University, Chico has been chosen to participate in the U.S. Department of Energy Collegiate Wind Competition 2016, an interdisciplinary competition that brings an array of undergraduate students together to engage our country’s future workforce in the wind industry. This competition is a unique opportunity for students from the College of Business and the College of Engineering, Computer Science, and Construction Management to collaborate and create a working prototype of a wind-driven application based on an identified market need and a real world business strategy.  

“I think it’s magical when engineering students work with business students,” explains Dr. Colleen Robb, a faculty member in the Management Department and one of CSU Chico’s newest professors focused on entrepreneurship. “They think so differently and they complement each other so well.”

Dr. Colleen Robb and Dr. David Alexander, from the Mechanical and Mechatronic Engineering and Sustainable Manufacturing Department, applied to the competition with the idea of getting their students working together as a team while challenging their individual expertise.

“We are both big fans of interdisciplinary education,” Dr. Robb said.  

There is even hope that students from other programs such as natural sciences, communications and agriculture will join the team.

“Business education can involve a lot of theory and not a lot of actual application,” Dr. Robb explains. “Engineering students usually want to apply what they learn. It will be fun for them to work together.”

“This competition integrates extremely well into the mechanical and mechatronic engineering capstone program, where students design and develop an engineering prototype for a real world problem or need,” Dr. Alexander said.  “Working side-by-side with business students will provide our engineering students with a unique opportunity that is not typical in undergraduate education, yet this is what goes on in industry all the time.”

The Chico State student team will be focused on three major objectives: the first primarily involves engineering students creating a working prototype of a wind turbine used for an off-grid application, the second project will engage marketing and entrepreneurship students to create the associated business and marketing plans for the application, and the third project is to investigate any environmental or siting issues for deploying the application. These three projects will be developed throughout the academic year and will be packaged together for the competition in the spring of 2016 against eleven other schools, including California Maritime Academy, Pennsylvania State University and the University of Maryland.

The students involved will gain direct experience in what it takes to create a business and dealing first-hand with the ups and downs of identifying, designing, and preparing a product for a competitive marketplace.

Participating students get the chance to travel. Students will go on an Adventure Outings team-building weekend to launch their collaborative efforts on the right foot, and the final competition in the spring will be held at the American Wind Energy Association WINDPOWER Conference and Exhibition in New Orleans, Louisiana. 

CSU, Chico’s involvement in this event will further its reputation for developing students that are passionate about sustainability and social responsibility. Dr. Robb enthuses, “Our campus commitment to green technology is recognized as an asset for our team.” Not only will students get the chance to imagine a better future, they will get the opportunity to create and market innovations that advance alternative energy solutions.

All students interested in competing should contact Dr. Colleen Robb or Dr. David Alexander before the spring semester is over. “Once fall Semester starts, we are going to hit the ground running.”