The Turbine Climb

Students climb up the inside of CWRU’s wind turbine


Harsha Chandupatla

Students from CWRU and Lorain County Community College were given the opportunity to climb the wind turbine outside the Veale Center on Friday, Sept. 19.

JP. O’Hagan, Sports Editor

While most students chose to enjoy the nice weather by relaxing on the quad last Friday, a select group of students accepted a unique challenge and rose to new heights.

Eight students from Case Western Reserve University were joined by six students from Lorain County Community College (LCCC) as they took part in one of the most unique experiences any student could have during his or her four years here. They climbed the wind turbine.

CWRU’s turbine was built in November of 2011. Since then, dozens of climbs have been done in the research turbine. The turbine, which is located in front of the Veale Center, serves the dual purpose of being a research project for the Wind Energy Research Center and providing electricity for the Veale Athletic Center.

Materials science and engineering professor David Matthiesen, who also leads the Wind Energy Research Center, made Friday’s climb possible. The climb training was set up for the LCCC students, who are in the college’s alternative energy course, and Aleena Ross, a CWRU senior who climbed the tower for her senior design project.

LCCC’s alternative energy course is a two-year degree which trains students as technicians for clean energy sources. Their alumni get jobs working for companies throughout the nation, often working on wind turbine technology.

Ross’ lab is working to design a one-hundred percent solid lock, which would replace the wind turbine’s hydraulic brakes, which can be overcome with a strong enough gust of wind. The project is being built for a different turbine, but having a turbine on campus allows for first-hand experience that is extremely helpful.

The other CWRU students who climbed on Friday were members of Matthiesen’s lab who jumped on the opportunity to take part.

“Matthiesen asked us if we wanted to climb, and of course we were just like ‘of course,’” said Mary Manspeaker, one of the climbers. Joining Manspeaker, Ross, and the LCCC students in the climbs were CWRU students Justin Williams, Sven Voigt, Olga Eliseeva, Joe DeGenova, Brad Barnhart and Katie Starr.

The climbers wore full harnesses and helmets for the vertical climb up the ladder inside the tower. The climb up the 121 feet to the hub took about 20 minutes. As a safety measure, only one climber was allowed in the 30,300 pound tower at a time.

Once they reached the top, the climbers poked their heads out to enjoy the view. If they were wind turbine technicians, they would have exited onto the sides of the hub to perform maintenance on the 100kW generator which is driven by the three 33.5 foot long blades.

The goal of the day? “Not to die,” said Manspeaker, before going up.