Introduction: Simple MacGyver Windmill That Lifts Weight

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This guide will instruct you on how to make a windmill that spins and how to make your windmill lift weight as it spins.

This same instruction can be found in a free educational curriculum guide here:

Step 1: Materials:

Your windmill can be made with almost any materials. The materials in the parentheses are just suggestions; you can imagine all sorts of things that will serve the same function.

  • hub (hole-less pool noodle piece)
  • blades (skewers, index cards)
  • drivetrain (dowel, cardboard tube)
  • weightlifting (string, cup, spool, washers)
  • box fan
  • tape
  • scissors

Step 2: Start by Making Blades for Your Windmill

Connect a hub to the axle of your drivetrain by putting the pool noodle piece on the end of the dowel (you will want to tape or glue it in place: if it is not securely attached, the hub will spin without the dowel and your windmill won’t be able to move any weight).

In this example, I used skewers, but you can use any number of things. If using skewers, break/cut them in half and put them into your hub.

Cut blades out of index cards and tape onto the skewers. (When you test your blades later, you may find that you want to fold the cards in half or use a thicker material to be more effective.)

Step 3: Create a Drivetrain That Allows the Windmill to Spin

Put the cardboard tube over the dowel, allowing the dowel to act as an axle and spin within it.

Step 4: Test Your Blades

Hold the cardboard tube with the blades in front of a box fan. If your windmill doesn’t spin or you want it to spin more quickly, experiment with the number of blades, the angle of the blades, their shape, and the thickness/stiffness of the material. Once your windmill spins, you can move onto creating a windmill that can lift weight.

Step 5: Create a Mechanism for Weightlifting

Tape or glue the spool on the end of the dowel (if it is not securely attached, the dowel will spin without the spool and your windmill won’t be able to move any weight). Connect one end of the string to it.

Poke two holes in the cup and thread the other end of the string through them and tie tightly. Now you’ve finished building your simple windmill, and are ready to test it.

Step 6: Test How Much Weight Your Windmill Can Lift

Place some washers in the cup and place your windmill in front of the box fan, holding your windmill by the drivetrain (cardboard tube). The blades should move from the “wind” of the box fan, spinning the dowel, and wrapping the string around the spool until the cup is carries up to the top. See how many washers your windmill can lift. You also might want to build a base for the windmill that allows it to stand on its own.

For more ideas and information, see the free curriculum plan: