Student Leads Effort to Build Windmill

Pick a project to benefit the Punahou community.

That was the task posed to ninth graders more than a year ago in a Global Sustainability by Design (GSD) course taught by Design Technology and Engineering faculty Ed Kinnear and Academy science faculty Josh Lawerence. 

Together, students chose a project from among different ones suggested by community members. The ideas ranged from creating a rain water catchment system outside the Ken Richardson Learning Lab to retrofitting one of the School’s golf carts with solar panels. 

Students settled on a project proposed by Outdoor Education faculty member Andy Nelson to create a windmill that would generate electricity on top of Pu’u o Mānoa (Rocky Hill) to power outdoor lights and serve as a charging station. 

The ninth graders started researching and designing the project, but their work was interrupted by COVID-19. Not to be deterred, one student, Marcus Herrera ’23, picked up the project where his class left off and took the lead to bring it to fruition. Building off the group’s previous work, he redesigned the windmill, made a second prototype for it, and constructed blades from sheets of aluminum. 

He now plans to hand the project off to the students in an upcoming ninth grade GSD course and mentor them as they continue to build and test the structure and parts of the windmill, including the electronic and battery components. The hope is that it will be installed on Pu’u o Mānoa before the summer. 

“Our GSD group worked really hard on trying to get a windmill done freshman year,” Herrera said. “I thought it would be great to see Rocky Hill powered by a windmill and believe that we’ll see that some day.

Along with gaining a deeper understanding and passion for engineering, Herrera hopes his work will inspire future students who work on the project. “The highlight has been doing a project that has a real world benefit, which is not not something you often get the chance to do,” he said. “This project will have lasting benefits into the future.” 

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