For my latest workshop in my daughter’s school I wanted to let the children each make a wind turbine. It wanted it to be functional, powering a small light and it needed to be cheaper than 6 Euro a piece, which ruled out any commercial kits.
The workshop was for 20 kids, which ruled out scavenging hard discs motors or stepper motors and such. Low cost “toy” motors on the other hand need really high rpm to light up a small bulb or a led. Fortunately the type of motors used in solar cell driven toys and kits work better. And these are still available for under 2 Euro.
A small flashlight bulb was actually easier to get to glow than lighting a LED, when driving a 6 to 1 gear on a “solar grade” motor by hand. But it required too much torque for a small and simple wind turbine.
A LED worked with a turbine and a single step 6 to 1 gearing, but only at really high wind speeds, needed to get a high enough voltage. But I wanted the kids see it functioning, without having to wait for a strong wind. To apply a higher gear ratio in one step needed a larger gear wheel which I could not find at a low price. A two step gearing gives to much friction with the cheap and simple construction techniques suitable for a kids workshop (remember we are talking about gearing up, which is more critical to build quality).
But our good friend the Joule Thief came to the rescue. With this little circuit added, the LED lights up at a breeze. Moving the wind turbine by hand easily lights up the LED. I estimate it starts at wind speeds below 10km/h. And everything still holds up at strong winds.
Apart from attaching leads to the motor/generator in advance (“solar” motors are often sold with leads anyway) the circuit is built up without soldering, as I prefer to avoid that when working with 20 kids aged 6 to 12.
All that was left was making some “templates” for the steps that need accuracy and gathering the materials and I was ready for the workshop. Check the result in the video below and read how we built the wind turbines in this Instructable.
My special thanks goes to Emma, for her assistance when taking extra pictures showing the detailed construction steps.
Thanks for the votes for this entrie in the MakerBot Challenge!