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The Center for Energy Education Monday celebrated the accomplishments of a group of Chaloner Middle School students who called their team the Wind Breakers and now lay claim to calling themselves national champions.

Three of the team members attended the event which recognized its national victory in last month’s KidWind Challenge in San Antonio.

“It means a lot to us and all of our crew representing Halifax County and our schools a whole lot,” said Sawyer Williams. “It was an overwhelming experience at first. Then we kind of got the hang of things. When we went into a new place it was definitely overwhelming but we figured it out pretty quickly.”

Williams said the success of the event which began on the local level and advanced through state and national tiers is something that could possibly fuel his future career path. “It’s definitely something I’ll be looking into. It was really fun.”

Jeremy Robertson said the team was essentially drafted by their coach and teacher — Shannon Dickinson — to volunteer and begin work on a wind turbine that would generate electricity. “I feel like for the school it’s a really big thing and for the school district as a whole because not many other things have gone on to the nationals,” he said.

Christian Burnett, another team member said, “When we won I didn’t know how to react. Being from a little town I didn’t know I’d ever have a chance to do this and then with this amazing team we won the state, went to nationals.”

After the event there has been time for reflection and Burnett continues to maintain, “I just don’t know how to react.”

The one thing he does know is he believes the experience has opened up future career possibilities for him. “I’m thinking of starting my own company just to do this.”

For Burnett’s mother Lori, the national crown, “It means the world — just seeing how proud he was of himself when he won — the surprise and joy on his face was life-changing. It was amazing.”

Burnett’s father, Roland, said, “At his age these kids are out there with video games. These guys were tinkering with stuff, building stuff. They wanted to learn how to weld.”

To hear that his son is thinking of making a career in renewable energy was not a surprise. “He’s been talking about MIT (Massachusetts Institute of Technology) for years.”

Members of the team who were not present were Musa Gwanzura, Gabriel Lyles and Bryce Manning.

Mozine Lowe, executive director of the center, said, “What we’re trying to do is to introduce our students to careers, not only in solar but wind energy. By them having the opportunity to come here and to learn about the technology and make a project based on that technology and to win state and national competitions is a really big thing.”

Lowe said she believes the experience will help them in the future. “I think this opportunity will elevate them in terms of their career aspirations. I think that local companies will follow them. We’re very proud of them representing Halifax County.”

Lowe has already reached out to a wind energy company for an introduction of the students. “I can see some possibilities for internships and some ways for students to really learn firsthand about career options in wind energy. That’s the next step for them.”

North Carolina State Representative Michael Wray said, “This is what it’s all about. This is a way for the center to thank our young people because they are our future. This gives them an opportunity to fly.”

In thanking the students for “putting this place on the map,” Halifax County Board of Commissioners Chairman Vernon Bryant also recognized the vision of former Commissioner James Pierce for bringing the center to the old Halifax County Airport outside Roanoke Rapids.

Bryant also read a letter from County Manager Dia Denton recognizing the students as well as Lowe.

Denton recognized the ingenuity of the team for designing and testing their turbine in four wind tunnels, saying the project “demonstrated their exceptional knowledge and understanding of renewable energy.”

While recognizing the students, Denton also recognized the center. “The Center for Energy Education is one of Halifax County’s finest assets, providing educational programs that contribute to strong values, strong leadership, strong commitment and strong citizenship.

“The outstanding achievement of the Chaloner Middle School KidWind team has undoubtedly made the citizens of Halifax County very, very proud.”

Pierce, who sits on the center’s board, gave some background on the facility before congratulating the Chaloner team.

“I was the chair of the board (of commissioners) at the time we were negotiating with this solar firm to put this solar farm out at the old airport. All they wanted to was come and build that solar farm and put a fence around it and go away which was not very lucrative for Halifax County. We sat at that negotiating table and told them we’ve got to have something that will really mean something for Halifax County. This is exactly what I had in mind.”

Said Pierce of the team: “This is a big deal. We want to congratulate the young people for their achievement. We’re so proud of you.”

Dickinson said judges were more than impressed by the team. “They blew away the judges. They just kept coming up to us and saying they were amazing. They’re not selfish individuals — they give credit where credit is due.”