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How to Build a Windmill Generator Science Project

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  • 0:04 Introduction to the Experiment
  • 1:03 Materials
  • 1:36 Steps of the Experiment
  • 3:39 How It Works
  • 4:07 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Amanda Robb

Amanda holds a Masters in Science from Tufts Medical School in Cellular and Molecular Physiology. She has taught high school Biology and Physics for 8 years.

In this project, you'll be making your own wind generator at home. It won't be big enough to power your entire house, but you will be able to light a light bulb using a simple turbine.

Introduction to the Experiment

Let's take a moment to look over the general information about the experiment we are going to conduct:

Goal: To build a model windmill generator to power a lightbulb
Age: Middle school and up
Safety Concerns: Hot glue can burn you, so you have to be careful not to get it on your skin
Time: Two hours

Global warming is a hot topic today, literally! Global warming is increasing the temperature of the earth and causing all sorts of natural disasters like hurricanes, droughts, and floods. Excess carbon dioxide causes global warming and is produced from burning fossil fuels to make energy, like coal and oil. One solution to this problem is to use a renewable energy source, like wind, that doesn't create carbon dioxide.

But how can windmills create electricity? Wind in the atmosphere pushes the blades of the windmill, which rotate a turbine inside the structure. The turbine spins large coils of wire around a magnet, which creates the electricity we use in our house. Today, we're going to build a model of this technology to power a light bulb.

Materials

Here's our list of materials that we need to conduct this experiment:

  • 1 3-inch nail
  • Paper towel tube
  • 26 wooden popsicle sticks
  • Craft glue
  • Hot glue
  • 1 wooden craft circle, about 3 inches in diameter
  • 6 pieces of card stock, 5 inches long by 2 inches wide
  • Small household fan
  • 1 neodymium magnet that will fit inside the paper towel tube
  • Masking tape
  • At least 3 feet of 30-gauge copper magnet wire
  • A 1.5 volt light bulb; and finally
  • Scissors

Steps of the Experiment

1. Start by creating your base. Glue 10 popsicle sticks side by side. Glue an additional 10 sticks on top of that layer in the opposite direction. Allow about 30 minutes to dry.

  • Here's a safety tip to consider: Hot glue can burn you; be careful and avoid getting it on your hands.

2. While your base is drying, use the hot glue to attach the craft circle to the head of the nail.

3. Next, hot glue 6 popsicle sticks to the craft circle to make the blades of the windmill.

4. Use the craft glue to attach the card stock to finish forming each blade.

5. Next, puncture the nail through both sides of the paper towel tube about 1 inch from the top. Spin the nail to make sure it moves freely through the tube.

6. Hot glue the paper towel tube to the base with the nail at the top once the base is dry.

  • Here's a quick safety tip: Neodymium magnets are very strong; don't place them near any electronics!

7. Next, glue the magnet to the nail inside the paper towel tube.

8. Next, coil the magnet wire around the outside of the paper towel tube around the area containing the magnet. Leave about 5 inches on either side of the wire to attach to the light bulb.

9. Tape the wires to the paper towel tube to keep them in place.

10. Now, make sure the wire is exposed under the plastic. You may need to use scissors to cut back some of the plastic. Then, coil the wires around the base of the light bulb, making sure they are connected tightly; and finally

11. It's time to test your turbine. Turn on the fan to spin the blades and watch your light bulb light up.

You may need to do some troubleshooting:

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