SkillsUSA Champions - Spring 2014 : Page 8

almon or hydropower? Both are critical to the Washington state economy, but gains for one industry often mean losses to the other. The steps of three high-school students may literally help solve this longtime dilemma. At Central Kitsap High School in Silverdale, Wash., senior Rachel Kagan and teammates Kaitlyn Duarte and Larisa Brown learned about the declining salmon population in their environmental class. River dams that generate electricity also can be an obstacle to fish migration. When young salmon hatch and grow to the 3-inch fingerling size, they swim downstream. Unfortunately, many finger-lings are sucked into the dams’ turbines. Lowering turbine speeds means economic loss for the power plants, and the process isn’t foolproof: lots of the fish still die. The students chose this problem as the basis of their Engineering Technology/ Design entry in the SkillsUSA Champi-onships. Between the three of them, their studies had covered computer-assisted drafting, chemistry, physics, robotics, statics (an engineering term), environ-mental science, language arts, trigonom-etry, geometry and calculus. Using these complementary skills, the team found what they consider the best solution: combining a slide with stairs to help the fingerlings swim downstream. They began by studying the ladders already built near dams to help salmon swim upstream. “We thought, ‘Why not just harvest that idea and utilize and manipulate it to be dual purpose instead of just one purpose?’ ” Brown says. “We wanted a solution that would adapt to the environment, to mimic nature,” Duarte adds. “This invention would trans-form from stairs to a slide — simplistic, yet efficient. The stairs will systematically drop down, then a slide will be created.” Photo: Lloyd Wolf S

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