This is a science activity that you can easily do at home using household materials. Kids will build their own wind farm, simulate the power of the wind and then observe and record the results. It’s a perfect STEM activity for the kids to complete a hands-on building challenge and practice the scientific process using a working wind farm.
How is this a STEM activity?
This activity is a 2-part STEM activity. It requires you to build your own wind turbines from household materials and then simulate a working wind farm while observing the scientific process.
The scientific process requires variables (independent, dependent and control). Here, we are doing test runs with our bursts of air (known as the independent variable). This is a version of ‘time’ for this variable. We are then observing and recording the number of wind turbines that turn for each test run (known as the dependent variable). The control variables are those aspects which we keep the same for each test run. For this activity, they are the number of wind turbines and the speed of the hairdryer. It is important to note that the direction of the wind (i.e. hairdryer) may not be consistent for each test run and will rely on the user to hold it at the same angle each time. However, on the other hand this uncertainty does mimic a real-world wind farm scenario more closely. This is a factor that can be discussed with the results.
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What do I need?
For the wind turbines (pinwheels)
- Push pins
- Paper fasteners
For the functioning wind farm
- Wind turbines
- Basket with holes or a dish drainer
How to do it?
Here are the steps to make the wind turbines (or pinwheels):
- Cut a paper square measuring 15cm by 15cm.
- At each corner towards the centre about 8 cm each cut (this doesn’t have to be too exact).
- It is easier to ‘pre-drill’ the holes in the paper. So, take a drawing pin and poke one hole in each corner so that each triangle will have a hole on it. These will be bent into the middle.
- Poke a hole at the centre of the paper.
- Poke a hole through one end of the straw so that it goes through the full width of the straw.
- Take each corner of the paper with a hole in it into the centre of the square to form your pinwheel.
- Push the paper fastener through the centre hole so that each arm of the turbine is secured. Then push this paper fastener through the straw and bend the end of the arms of the fastener to secure it in place.
- Follow steps 1-7 to make 4 more wind turbines.
Here are the steps to make the working wind farm:
- Poke the 5 wind turbines through the holes in the basket.
- Prepare your recording sheet by drawing a power meter on a piece of paper (see the picture below). Tape this to the table.
- Turn on the hairdryer and aim it at the wind turbines. Use the lowest air setting that your hairdryer allows.
- This science activity simulates blasts of air (or wind gusts) with the hairdryer. So each time you aim at the wind turbines count how many wind turbines start to turn.
- Then record that number by placing a sticker in the relevant section of your meter.
- Use the hairdryer to blast another gust of wind at your wind farm and record the wind turbines that turned, on your recording sheet.
- Continue step 6 for at least 10 times.
Here is our final recording sheet from our wind farm activity. The more pin wheels that turned, the greater the power we generated with each burst of air. You could easily use this data and graph it on a traditional x-y axis style graph as well.
This is a STEM activity which combines a building activity with a scientific inquiry. It’s easy to do at home and uses commonly sourced household items. How powerful was your wind farm?