Introduction: Wind Turbine Game!

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Hold on to your hats, because it's getting windy in here! A breath of air? Post-meal flatulence? A raging tornado? Harness them all with your new wind turbine, and the game to build the best blade design for maximum watt production.

This is a great activity that can be done with a whole class even with a single constructed wind turbine, and a bunch of kiddo-made wind-catching designs. Jump into the 5,000 year old tradition of catching wind with a turbine of your own!

  • What: Wind Turbine Game! OMG!
  • Concepts: wind, electricity, electro-magnetism, energy, volts
  • Cost: ~ $3 for parts (not including fan and voltmeter)
  • Time: ~ 30 minutes to make, great longer activity
  • Materials for Turbine:
    • ~ 3 ft. 3/4 " PVC
    • 6 x elbow couplers (3/4" PVC)
    • 3 x T-couplers (3/4" PVC)
    • DC motor
    • 2 lengths wire ~ 18" each
    • 2 gator clips
    • Construction toy attachment (GoldieBlox, Tinkertoys, Lego, etc.)
  • Materials for Wind Blades:
    • Construction Paper
    • Construction toy parts (GoldieBlox, Tinkertoys, Lego, etc.)
    • Scotch tape
  • Tools:
    • PVC cutter
    • Wire strippers
    • Soldering iron / solder
    • Hot glue gun / hot glue
    • Scissors
    • Hold punchers (optional)
    • Voltmeter
    • Fan

Let's go! This place is about to blow!

    Step 1: The Base

    Cut the PVC for your base! You'll need 6 short pieces and 2 long pieces. We chose 3" for the short and 6" for the long, but it's really up to you. Connect them all together like so, or if you want to make yours more pinwheel-like, you can make a single-mast structure, too.

    When you're done, drill a medium-sized hole in the side to let wires through.

    Step 2: Wiring Your Turbine

    Tape the two wires together, and feed it through your drill hole so it comes out the T-joint on top. This may require some taking apart and putting back together of your base.

    Step 3: The Motor

    In this case, your motor is going to act as a generator, which is pretty neat that they can go both ways. Just as a power supply can make the motor spin, if you spin the motor it can be a power supply. Pretty nifty, huh?

    Solder the two wire ends coming out of the T-joint to the terminals on your motor. Hot glue your motor in place snug in the T-joint. We also glued in a little gear on our motor end to give a good base for the fan blades.

    Step 4: The Voltmeter

    On the other end, strip the two wire ends coming out the drill hole, and solder on gator clips (or banana if you prefer). These can go right in to your voltmeter, and this will tell us about how many volts our wind generator is producing at any given time.

    We're going to use volts as a proxy for power, but when you look at big wind systems, they're interested in watts. Check out how volts, amps, and watts interact here.

    Step 5: Test and Prep!

    Test your motor/generator by giving it a spin, and you should see your voltmeter spike!

    When it's working, glue on your construction toy of choice (I chose GoldieBlox because of ease with wheels and axles) with hot glue as an attachment for all the blade designs. These are great because the interlock easily, and if you want to have each student make their own turbine blades, they can just attach them on when they're done.

    Step 6: Make Some Turbine Blades!

    This is the fun part, and the great part for students. The challenge is to generate the most volts with a turbine blade design. There is so much to think about from size, number of blades, angle of orientation, shape, etc. Experiment! Make lots! Go crazy with it. If you're using toy pieces, they can inter-lock easily with your turbine, and detach for easy transition between students. There's a powerpoint on wind blade design that's pretty nifty here.

    There are also plenty of ways to do it without toys. Just grab a bottle cap, some chopsticks, and hot glue, and you're off to the races!

    Step 7: Spin, Turbine, Spin!

    Lock on those turbine blades and let it rip! See how many volts you can produce at a given fan distance. If you're using this in a classroom setting, make sure to keep the distance constant to get accurate comparisons.

    Have fun, and show us your wacky wind designs!

    There are a lot of wonderful resources out there on wind. Some of my favorite include the following.

    Happy harnessing!