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Career Spotlight: Kite Designer

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Damon Vander Lind is a kite designer for Makani Power, a wind power generation company owned by Google. Vander Lind loved working in his dad’s shop as a kid, tinkering with boats and model gliders, which fueled his passion for design and engineering. After receiving an engineering degree from MIT, he thought he wanted to get a doctorate, but during his post-college internship at Makani he fell in love with the work and decided to stay. He now leads a team that is building high-altitude kites that can generate more power than conventional wind turbines. He says that while not all start-up projects succeed, it only takes one successful project to make a huge difference. He finds it extremely exciting to be a part of that process.

This video is part of a five-part educational series on Careers in Renewable Energy.

Pre-viewing Questions

  • How might the work of a kite designer relate to the renewable energy industry?
  • What tools do you think a kite designer uses? What skills might be important in this job?

Focus Questions for Viewing

  • What are Vander Lind's kites designed to do?
  • How do his kites differ from conventional wind turbines? What issues with conventional wind turbines are Vander Lind’s team trying to solve with the kites?
  • Why does Vander Lind think renewable energy is important?
  • What are some of the things he does as part of his job?
  • What was his career path?
  • What advice does Vander Lind have for people interested in a career as an engineer or a designer?

Post-viewing Questions

  • What skills do you think Vander Lind uses as a kite designer?
  • What kinds of data do you think he collects and analyzes to help improve the kite design?
  • What aspects of this career are most interesting to you?
  • What questions do you still have?

Extension Activity

Have your students create their own renewable energy career spotlight video or narrated slideshow! Research local companies, colleges, and universities for people working in the field who students can contact for an interview. A worksheet with tips for planning interviews, and information about creating narrated slideshows and videos can be found in the Media-Making Toolkit for Science Education.

Links to Learn More

  • Explore Careers in Wind Power, U.S. Department of Energy website — Investigate the kinds of jobs available in the wind energy industry, classes and training available, and get information on the industry outlook.
  • Airborne Wind Energy, QUEST video — Explore the potential of wind energy with new airborne wind turbines designed to harness the stronger and more consistent winds found at higher altitudes.
  • Wind Energy Fuels Jobs for Oklahoma Youth, PBS NewsHour video — NewsHour’s Judy Woodruff investigates how wind energy is generating new job opportunities for youth in Oklahoma.
  • Wind Energy Technology, ATETV video — Hear from students in the wind energy technology program at a community college about their interest in the industry and activities included in their coursework.
  • Energy 101: Wind Turbines, U.S. Department of Energy video — Learn how wind turbines capture the wind’s energy and generate electricity.

NGSS Correlations

  • Performance Expectation: Evaluate competing design solutions for developing, managing, and utilizing energy and mineral resources based on cost-benefit ratios. HS-ESS3-2
  • Disciplinary Core Idea: All forms of energy production and other resource extraction have associated economic, social, environmental, and geopolitical costs and risks, as well as benefits. New technologies and social regulations can change the balance of these factors. HS-ESS3.A: Natural Resources
  • Science and Engineering Practices: Asking questions and defining problems, developing and using models, using mathematics and computational thinking, designing solutions
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Category: Education, Energy, Engineering

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Andrea Aust

About the Author ()

Andrea is the Science Education Manager for KQED. She joined KQED in 2007 to coordinate education and outreach for the public television series Jean-Michel Cousteau: Ocean Adventures. Between working on Ocean Adventures and joining the QUEST team, she developed the educational resources for the 4-hour documentary Saving the Bay. Andrea graduated from UC Berkeley with a B.A. in Environmental Science and earned her M.A. in Teaching and Multiple Subject Teaching Credential from the University of San Francisco. Before arriving at KQED, she taught, developed, and managed marine science and environmental education programs in Aspen, Catalina Island and the Bay Area.