Recently, Harrison Middle School students Andrew Diddens, Cole Gardner, John Kranz and Jonathan Saucedo have been preparing for a unique state competition.
They have been perfecting their windmill.
Last week, these students attended MESA's Wind Energy Challenge at Columbia Basin College in Pasco and walked away big winners.
High school and middle school students from across the region attended the competition and competed in a variety of categories that began with a windmill.
The students had to design a windmill that would lift a weight and pull a car. Windmills designed by high school students also had to power a generator.
While students from both Sunnyside middle schools and the high school took on the windmill challenge, it was Diddens, Gardner, Kranz and Saucedo who walked away with multiple wins and a chance to compete at state.
The boys' project won first place honors in the overall performance, as well as top honors for their poster, the paper challenge and oral presentation. Their technical paper won second place honors.
Gardner, Kranz and Saucedo are seventh graders, who participated in the challenge last year. Diddens joined their team this year and brought a windmill wing design that the other three boys picked up.
The wings are designed like a trapezoid and have a wide top and base, which helps with centrifugal force, said Kranz, and allows the windmill to spin faster.
The boys have added duct tape, sticks and washers since the competition to improve their windmill for the state competition. They want it to pick up more weight faster.
The local team has also been working on improving their technical paper.
This team says they've learned a lot about teamwork and design, and hope that will translate to a big win at the state competition in Seattle May 13-14.
Harrison sent five teams to the competition and, aside from the overall winning team, two other teams won some significant awards.
Rodrigo Orozco, Jose Hernandez, Adan Pallares and Isaac Ayala formed a team that placed second in a buoyancy competition. The boys built boats out of three sheets of foil and then slowly placed paper clips in the boat until it sank.
The boys placed 662 paper clips in the boat.
This team also earned third place honors for its technical paper.
But first place for the technical paper at the competition went to another Harrison Middle School team. This team, made up of Kim Calva, Nancy Casas, Natalie Oxley and Margarita Torres, also earned third place honors in the overall category.
Both teams are already preparing to return to the competition next year, taking with them some important lessons learned this year.
Calva says she wants to make the car go faster with next year's windmill. Their windmill also had problems with the weight lift, which pulled one of the windmill blades off and the girls had to race to reattach it.
The boys say they want to improve their technical paper and remember to keep the screws on their windmills loose. They say that during the car pull competition, the car stopped within two inches of the finish line because a screw tightened on the windmill and stopped pulling the car. They were disqualified, even though their car traveled really fast.
All the students say they learned a lot and had a lot of fun, but for now, they are cheering on Diddens, Gardner, Kranz and Saucedo, who will represent the Yakima and Tri-Cities regions against six other teams at state.
If the boys win the state competition, they'll have the chance to represent Washington at a national competition.