Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Wind Power Unit Study - Day 3

Today we continued learning about the parts of a wind turbine. Most of our study focused on the "How it Works" section of the "Wind With Miller" site at www.windpower.org/en/kids/index.htm . We stayed with this site, because it provides several fun experiments to go along with the parts of a turbine.

When learning about rotors, we started by making simple pinwheels. There are patterns and instructions for pinwheels all over the Web (if your children are quite young, you might look to Nick Jr's craft section). Then according to the instruction on "Wind with Miller", we modified our pinwheel, turning it into a small wind turbine. We had to substitute a pencil eraser for a cork, and our long shaft was a little thinner than called for, and we used nuts instead of wood blocks - but other than that we followed the instructions perfectly!

Our little turbine lifted up to two ounces, when powered by a hair dryer on low setting (the high setting blew the turbine apart).

Since "Wind With Miller" spent a good deal of time talking about lift, and glider wings when discussing the rotor blades, we also watched The Magic School Bus Takes Flight at http://www.veoh.com/ . With older children, using the "more" button on "Wind With Miller" will provide them with far greater detail and understanding of a turbine.

We stopped for today with a brief discussion of the types of towers used for wind turbines (lattice verses tubular), and some of the different designs people are using for home wind turbines (vertical verses horizontal). Our next step will be to try making the paper lattice tower and wind turbine shown on "Wind With Miller", and then move into a mini study within a study of electrical generators - we hope to build a simple one ourselves (even if all it will do is light a mini light bulb - it's a start - the children can learn how to save the world with wind power once they've reached upper level high school math and physics).

Now I just need to call a "teacher in service day", or whatever they'd call it at public school, to run out and collect a few ceramic magnets, copper wire, and European letter sized A4 paper (what do you think my chances are in small town Montana?) Nothing like a challenge in the pursuit of a science project!

It's great to be a homeschooler!