Introduction: Tinkering With Turbines

About: The #1 platform for 3D printing in education. Efficiently manage unlimited 3D printers, students, files and curriculum from a single platform that provides complete visibility and control to drive access, enga…


What is a wind turbine? How does a wind turbine transform wind energy into electrical energy? In this module, you will learn the basics of wind turbine design and construction. Your challenge is to build a wind turbine that can transform wind energy into electrical energy.


  • Uses of energy, including mechanical, light, thermal, electrical, and chemical energy.
  • Creating electrical circuits which conduct an electric current to produce light.
  • Energy transformations in an electrical circuit.


  • Identify development of alternative energy sources as a goal of environmental engineers.
  • Define criteria for success and constraints on materials or cost for a design.
  • Generate multiple possible solutions to a problem based on how well each is likely to meet criteria and constraints of the problem.
  • Obtain and combine information about ways individual communities use science ideas to protect the Earth's resources and environment.
  • Apply the concepts you learn to build a 3D wind turbine that will transform wind energy to electrical energy.


  • Computer with access to the Polar Cloud
  • Access to 3D Printer
  • Tinkercad (free browser based 3D modeling)
  • Multimeter
  • Small electric motor
  • Rubber bands
  • Tape
  • Skewers

Step 1:

Step 2: Design Your Own Turbine

Using Tinkercad we can design and print our own turbine designs.

Tinkercad is a web-based computer-aided design software that is fun and easy to use. To get started on Tinkercad, just set-up your free account by going to Use Tinkercad to design amazing objects using basic shapes to print on your 3D printer. See the examples below to learn how to design your own turbine.

Download Designing Blade 1 with Tinkercad

Download Designing Blade 2 with Tinkercad

Download Designing Blade 3 with Tinkercad

Download Designing Blade 4 with Tinkercad

Download Designing Turbine Nacelle with Tinkercad

Download Designing Turbine Tower with Tinkercad

Step 3: Construct Your Turbine

Once you have created an .stl file for your turbine, nacelle and tower its time to print them. Go to the Polar Cloud upload your files under the Explore>Objects tab. Then print the objects to your schools or your own 3D printer.

Once all of your turbine parts have been printed assemble them by following the directions below. This rotor will be used to test how much electricity your model can generate. If you don’t understand a direction or have trouble deciding what to do, study the figure above.

  1. Attach two alligator clips to the flat end of the motor.
  2. Use a rubber band to attach the electric motor to the end of a ruler. Be sure the shaft of the motor sticks past the end of the ruler.
  3. Use tape to attach the skewers to the card stock wind turbine blades that your group selected. Think carefully about where the skewer should be taped to the blade.
  4. Insert the skewers into the hub to attach the blades. Push the hub onto the motor shaft.
  5. Rotate the ends of the skewers to get the blades to the desired angles in the hub, and place the cover on the hub.
  6. Take your rotor system to the voltage measuring station.
  7. Attach the alligator clips from the motor to the alligator clips on the DC voltmeter or voltage probe.
  8. Place the rotor system about 25 cm away from the fan (the wind source). Turn on the fan and measure the voltage produced.
  9. If the blades do not turn, try rotating them in the hub until they spin freely.
  10. If needed, adjust the distance to the wind source to allow the blades to spin.

Step 4: Test Your Turbine!

Collect and record data using your model wind turbine. Record the data in the table below. Calculate the average voltage produced at each speed. (Show your work in the space below the table. If you only have one fan speed, put results in the last column. If you test other multimeter settings, record the settings above.)

Think of ways to improve the design of the turbine to maximize the voltage. What could be redesigned to make the system more efficient?