JMU students finish strong in national wind energy competition

JMU News

by Eric Gorton


There's nothing quite like hands-on experience when learning about something as diverse as the clean energy industry, say two members of the 2021 James Madison University Collegiate Wind Competition team. 

Meghan Jennings and Callie Chaplain recommend that students from any discipline explore joining next year's JMU Collegiate Wind Competition team. In addition to working on technical aspects of the contest, including computer modeling, Jennings and Chaplain met with high school students around the state to promote learning about clean energy and also met with clean energy industry representatives and government officials to discuss other aspects of the contest. 

Awards for this year's competition were announced Friday, June 11, with the JMU team placing fourth overall among 13 undergraduate teams from across the country and receiving high marks from judges and faculty mentors alike. The Collegiate Wind Competition is supported by the U.S. Department of Energy and the National Renewable Energy Laboratory. 

"I am particularly impressed with the prototype development team’s efforts to get a fully functional turbine that they were able to test to competition standards at JMU," said Keith Holland, professor of engineering and one of four faculty advisors to the team of 14 students. "While it is unfortunate that they did not get to showcase their operational prototype in the competition setting, they demonstrated significant growth as learners and as members of a team designing a complex engineered system." 

Since the competition was held virtually for a second consecutive year, teams made videos of the turbines they built and the testing they put them through. 

Each year, the Collegiate Wind Competition integrates a new challenge into the contest that reflects real-world wind industry needs. Taking the COVID-19 pandemic and the threat of supply chain disruptions into account, the 2021 challenge tasked teams with developing projects for deployment in highly uncertain times, with a significant degree of unknown risks and delays. This year’s competition also featured a new “Connection Creation Contest,” which challenged students to engage with industry professionals, their local communities and local media outlets, in order to broaden their understanding of the workforce and educate new audiences about the benefits of wind and renewable energy. 

Jon Miles, a professor of integrated science and technology and another team advisor, said the competition organizers have been promoting an outreach component to the competition so it involves more than the core technical activities of building a wind turbine and siting wind farms. 

Secretary of Energy Jennifer M. Granholm, in a recorded message played at the virtual awards ceremony, said, “Wind energy is an essential part of our fight against the climate crisis, and that means one thing for talented and driven young people like these students: jobs, jobs, jobs.” 

Jennings, who graduated this May with a degree in integrated science and technology, said employers have been interested in her experience in the competition. 

Pennsylvania State University won the overall top prize this year as well as the project development contest. 

Schools in the competition in addition to JMU and Pennsylvania State were: 

  • Brigham Young University
  • California State University Maritime Academy
  • California Polytechnic State University (3rd overall)
  • Johns Hopkins University (2nd overall)
  • Kansas State University (winner of the turbine prototype contest)
  • Northern Arizona University
  • Texas Tech University
  • University of Maryland
  • University of Wisconsin-Madison
  • Virginia Tech University (winner of the Connection Creation contest)
  • Washington State University-Everett

Joining Holland and Miles in advising the team were Edwin Clamp, a lecturer of management; and Emily York, a professor of integrated science and technology. 

JMU is one of 11 schools that has been selected to compete again in the 2022 competition, which will be held May 16-19 at the American Clean Power Association’s CLEANPOWER 2022 Conference & Exhibition in San Antonio, Texas. 

This was the fifth time JMU participated in the competition, including in the inaugural event in 2014. In 2020, JMU placed first in the project development category. 

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Media contact: Eric Gorton,, 540-908-1760.

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Published: Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Last Updated: Wednesday, November 1, 2023

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