MADISON — Students jokingly call it The Floating Beast; a scale-model, floating offshore wind-turbine platform.

But it was no joke recently when the model — and the four Madison high school students who developed it — took the overall top award in the Windstorm Challenge 2012 at the University of Maine campus in Orono.

The model, designed and put to the test by Travis Emerson, Stephen Cusson, Jess Theberge and Matt Soucy, all seniors from Madison, also took second place in the stability portion of the challenge.

The win makes Soucy eligible for a $20,000 work-study scholarship over four years at the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, a program within the school’s engineering department.

Theberge and Emerson will attend Maine Maritime Academy and Cusson said he plans to enlist in the U.S. Marine Corps.

The students said they were worried at first, thinking they had no chance to win the challenge. They soon gained confidence seeing the other models entered in the challenge and were surprised, finally, at having won.

“If you think about our school — it’s supposedly a failing school,” Theberge said Tuesday. “You wouldn’t expect a small school like us to be able to produce something that would actually win and withstand other schools that are the top schools in the state.”

The high school was named to a list of Maine’s 10 low-achieving schools in 2010, largely because of a lack of growth on SAT scores. School official said recently that students are improving their standardized test scores in an effort that will lift the school’s designation as low achieving.

Another Madison group, called Team BadJr. placed second in the overall Windstorm Challenge. Team members were Joe Hayden, Danh Pham, Ben Grooms and Alex Helderman.

The events were sponsored by The DeepCwind Consortium, a national leader in deepwater offshore wind technology based in Maine.

“I’m so proud of my physics students,” their teacher Erin Demshar said. “Through Windstorm Challenge 2012, students applied their classroom knowledge to real world problems.”

In a forum at Kennebec Valley Community College in 2010, Habib Dagher of the University of Maine likened offshore wind power in Maine to Texas oil.

He said $5 billion a year is leaving the state in energy costs with fossil fuels, and that much of that cost could be captured and brought back to Maine. Dagher said these “over-the-horizon” wind farms in the Gulf of Maine also would attract manufacturers of turbines and blades that currently are made in other countries.

Emerson said their platform’s hefty arms and a post supported a scale-model wind turbine to determine how high the platform would sit it the water. The design was tested in pools during the challenge, he said, noting that 80 percent of the other projects could not sustain the simulated wind and waves.

“Our platform needed to be able to withstand waves to see which platform would move the least in waves and wind to see if it would stay afloat and didn’t tip over,” Theberge said. “Offshore, there’s so much wind out there and there’s nothing blocking it and it can be as big as you need it to be; I think it’s definitely beneficial and it’s not an eyesore.”

Theberge added that the composite material used in the construction of the platform does not deteriorate in water, so it does not pollute the water or endanger wildlife.

The scale model, based on several prototypes already under development, was designed to represent a platform that would be floated 20 miles off shore, where the water is too deep to anchor to the ocean floor.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367

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