OffshoreWind4Kids challenges engineers of tomorrow

OffshoreWind4Kids challenges the engineers of tomorrow

Did you think offshore wind turbines were only for adults? Think again! Children can also get to work with offshore wind turbines. Our colleague William Beuckelaers launched OffshoreWind4Kids, an initiative which gives children the opportunity to assemble their own wind turbine using a construction kit. “With the support of Jan De Nul, OffshoreWind4Kids organises demo days in Belgium to get both boys and girls excited about studying engineering.”

OffshoreWind4Kids aims to teach children between the age of 8 and 15 about technology and renewable energy in a practical way. For William it is important to also encourage girls in this process. “When children are playing with a wind turbine, it doesn’t matter whether they are a boy or a girl. They are both equally enthusiastic”, he says. “Hopefully, this will encourage girls to go for technical studies.”

With this initiative, William tries to reach as many children as possible. This would be impossible if you would have to buy a kit for every child. That is why he works with hubs, each of which provides a number of wind turbine kits. “The hubs are usually linked to universities”, William explains. “Doctoral students or professors can come to school to teach about offshore wind at the request of teachers. With the support of Jan De Nul, we want to set up four hubs in Belgium. I am currently looking for partners to support such hubs in other countries as well.”

In order to strengthen ties with universities, William organises a University Challenge. Students from all over the world can participate by building a floating structure under the wind turbines. The best design will be chosen from the entries. “In this way, we stimulate innovation within the sector and make engineering students enthusiastic about offshore wind”, says William.

Children’s toys

William came up with the idea for OffshoreWind4Kids in his attic room, between his old children’s toys. In the meantime, he has converted the room into his own office with a 3D printer and testing facilities. “Every year my parents ask me what I would like to have for my birthday”, he says. “At Jan De Nul I was working on vibration measurements for offshore wind turbines, so I wanted something similar. Online I found a construction kit for a wind turbine, which I used as background in digital meetings. That is how I came up with the idea of building the first floating wind turbine in Belgium. On the basis of tubes and rubber rings, I created a structure which I also tested at sea.”

William started OffshoreWind4Kids on his own. Due to its success, he has set up a non-profit organisation and he gets support from the sector and the academic world. “My colleagues Paola and Adriana are helping me to explore international possibilities. I also have an advisory board which includes JDN colleague Jef Monballieu. Together with the universities and the industry, we try to get children enthusiastic about offshore wind from an early age.”

Who is William Beuckelaers?

William studied civil engineering. During an Erasmus year at TUDelft, he specialised in offshore wind and geotechnics. Afterwards, he obtained his doctorate at the University of Oxford, where he participated in the PISA project, one of the largest geotechnical research projects. He feels completely at home in the world of offshore wind turbine foundations.

At Jan De Nul, William looks at both the design and the installation of foundations. He also does research on decommissioning. Currently he is working on a method to seal the monopile and to completely remove it from the seabed under pressure.

Demo day in Knokke

On the 18th of July, OffshoreWind4Kids organised a demo day on the beach of Knokke. Children between 8 and 15 years old worked independently with the construction kits. With some support from an adult, younger children were able to participate as well.

Take a look how the demo day went!