KidWind introduces high school students to careers in the wind industry
This summer, Salem high school student Jessica Valatka got a chance to attend a weeklong summer program where she was introduced to the future of energy generation: offshore wind.
The program was sponsored by The KidWind Offshore Wind Academy, a collaboration between Self-Reliance (a women-led energy nonprofit on Cape Cod), University of Massachusetts,
University of Delaware, Woods Hole Oceanographic Institute and Mass Maritime Academy.
KidWind is a national program that develops STEM-based curricula, which was the basis for the week-long program held at Massachusetts Maritime Academy. The summer KidWind Academy was funded by the Massachusetts Clean Energy Center (CEC).
Twenty young people were chosen to participate in this summer’s KidWind Academy, which
introduced teachers and students to offshore wind through guest speakers, hands-on classroom
activities, and field trips.
We asked Jessica if she would tell us about her experience at the week-long program, which
she attended at Mass Maritime Academy.
Throughout the week, we learned through a variety of experiences. We discussed wind power in
depth with teachers and guest speakers from around the area. Everyone in the group was
engaged, and it was a space where we all benefited from each other’s knowledge and curiosity.
KidWind also brought us hands-on experiences, like wind turbine engineering through virtual
reality (with Eagle Wu). We did team-building exercises, and through trial-and-error,
experimented crafting our own wind turbines with a partner, while learning how to calculate the
efficiency. To go with the wind turbine designing, instructors provided information about
competition opportunities to expand our wind-power engineering skills.
We also toured multiple engineering facilities, such as the Woods Hole Oceanographic
Institution (WHOI). The marine scientists there explained their careers and career pathways,
while also welcoming us to observe fascinating projects like underwater drones, color-changing
squid, marine life preservation efforts, and more. We were introduced to an organization called
Minorities in Shark Sciences (MISS, founded by four black females) that promotes inclusivity
and inclusion for gender minorities of color within shark science. A 3D printing area was part of
the tour. There, the staff provided us with explanations of each job and machine, while showing
us many of their projects. As a keepsake, they gave each of us a keychain on which our names
were engraved by a laser printer as we watched.
Another place we toured was the Wind Technology Testing Center, where we watched massive
wind turbine blade tests on the front lines and heard presentations about the work done at the
This program strongly enriched my knowledge of climate change, career pathways, and wind
energy. I recommend it to anyone who is curious about the sciences behind renewable energy,
specifically wind power, and their place within the field.
The KidWind Academy will be held July 23-28, 2023. To learn more, go to www.kidwindacademy.com. Here more about KidWind Academy, October 6, on Zoom at SAFE’s monthly meeting, where Jessica will be speaking about her experience. Pre-register at tinyurl.com/studentwind.