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Wind Turbine Blade Design

Kidwind Project

Students go through the design process and the scientific process to test the effect of blade design on power output. There is an optional extension to use the data to create an optimal set of wind turbine blades.

Activity takes at least 5 class periods and can be extended. Additional materials required.

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
Middle School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 7 Cross Cutting Concepts, 7 Science and Engineering Practices
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 2 Disciplinary Core Ideas, 8 Cross Cutting Concepts, 8 Science and Engineering Practices

Energy Literacy

Humans transfer and transform energy from the environment into forms useful for human endeavors.
Other materials addressing:
4.1 Humans transfer and transform energy.

Excellence in Environmental Education Guidelines

1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations
Other materials addressing:
G) Drawing conclusions and developing explanations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:B) Designing investigations
Other materials addressing:
B) Designing investigations.
1. Questioning, Analysis and Interpretation Skills:C) Collecting information
Other materials addressing:
C) Collecting information.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.1 The Earth as a Physical System:C) Energy
Other materials addressing:
C) Energy.
2. Knowledge of Environmental Processes and Systems:2.4 Environment and Society:D) Technology
Other materials addressing:
D) Technology.

Notes From Our Reviewers The CLEAN collection is hand-picked and rigorously reviewed for scientific accuracy and classroom effectiveness. Read what our review team had to say about this resource below or learn more about how CLEAN reviews teaching materials
Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy | Technical Details

Teaching Tips

  • Teachers need to allocate storage space for the wind turbines during construction.
  • Educators will want to provide additional content about the science of wind energy as a source of renewable energy, including energy storage, transmission, etc.
  • Activities like this have been used in energy, weather, and environmental science units as well as in physics classrooms to teach aerodynamics.

About the Science

  • Models the scientific process - especially hypothesis testing.
  • The testing of actual blade models will reinforce the importance of blade design.
  • Comments from expert scientist: Great resource for a hands on experimentation. It's quite old (11 years) so some of the newer concepts in blade design aren't covered. There has been a lot of work in this area. However, this project focuses more on the fundamentals of wind power, so the age of the resource isn't of great concern.

About the Pedagogy

  • With additional scaffolding, it can be used in energy, weather, and environmental science units or to teach students how to properly set up and use the scientific process while exploring something new and different.
  • Technology teachers could use this lesson to teach about the design process and integrate science concepts.
  • The activity could also be used as a small segment in a month-long exploration of wind energy (it would require more scaffolding to do this effectively).
  • Great teaching materials with good handouts.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • Substantial preparation time required to implement activity.
  • Educator must be familiar with wind turbine models and should experiment with one before attempting to do this project.
  • Educator needs to provide specific instructions to standardize turbine testing.
  • The resource is built around the background materials and kits available for sale at http://www.kidwind.org, however materials can be purchased elsewhere.
  • Links that are broken: http://www.windpower.org/en/tour/manu/bladtest.htm and http://www.awea.org/projects
    Instead use http://www.windpower.org/en/ for Danish Wind Association site and http://www.awea.org/ for American Wind Energy Association site.

Related URLs These related sites were noted by our reviewers but have not been reviewed by CLEAN

Additional teaching materials are available from KidWind: http://www.kidwind.org/#!windwise-1/ovnrg.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

Middle School

Performance Expectations: 1

MS-ETS1-3: Analyze data from tests to determine similarities and differences among several design solutions to identify the best characteristics of each that can be combined into a new solution to better meet the criteria for success.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

Engineering, Technology, and Applications of Science:

Cross Cutting Concepts: 7

Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change, Patterns, Cause and effect

MS-C1.4:Graphs, charts, and images can be used to identify patterns in data.

MS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships may be used to predict phenomena in natural or designed systems.

MS-C4.1: Systems may interact with other systems; they may have sub-systems and be a part of larger complex systems.

MS-C4.2: Models can be used to represent systems and their interactions—such as inputs, processes and outputs—and energy, matter, and information flows within systems.

MS-C5.2: Within a natural or designed system, the transfer of energy drives the motion and/or cycling of matter.

MS-C6.1:Complex and microscopic structures and systems can be visualized, modeled, and used to describe how their function depends on the shapes, composition, and relationships among its parts; therefore, complex natural and designed structures/systems can be analyzed to determine how they function.

MS-C7.1: Explanations of stability and change in natural or designed systems can be constructed by examining the changes over time and forces at different scales, including the atomic scale.

Science and Engineering Practices: 7

Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Asking Questions and Defining Problems

MS-P1.4:Ask questions to clarify and/or refine a model, an explanation, or an engineering problem.

MS-P2.7:Develop and/or use a model to generate data to test ideas about phenomena in natural or designed systems, including those representing inputs and outputs, and those at unobservable scales.

MS-P3.5:Collect data about the performance of a proposed object, tool, process or system under a range of conditions.

MS-P4.8:Analyze data to define an optimal operational range for a proposed object, tool, process or system that best meets criteria for success.

MS-P5.2:Use mathematical representations to describe and/or support scientific conclusions and design solutions

MS-P6.6:Apply scientific ideas or principles to design, construct, and/or test a design of an object, tool, process or system.

MS-P7.5:Evaluate competing design solutions based on jointly developed and agreed-upon design criteria.

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-ETS1-2: Design a solution to a complex real-world problem by breaking it down into smaller, more manageable problems that can be solved through engineering.

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 2

HS-ETS1.B :Developing Possible Solutions

HS-ETS1.C :Optimizing the Design Solution

Cross Cutting Concepts: 8

Patterns, Cause and effect, Scale, Proportion and Quantity, Systems and System Models, Energy and Matter, Structure and Function, Stability and Change

HS-C1.3:Patterns of performance of designed systems can be analyzed and interpreted to reengineer and improve the system.

HS-C2.2:Cause and effect relationships can be suggested and predicted for complex natural and human designed systems by examining what is known about smaller scale mechanisms within the system.

HS-C2.3:Systems can be designed to cause a desired effect.

HS-C3.5:Algebraic thinking is used to examine scientific data and predict the effect of a change in one variable on another (e.g., linear growth vs. exponential growth).

HS-C4.3:Models (e.g., physical, mathematical, computer models) can be used to simulate systems and interactions—including energy, matter, and information flows—within and between systems at different scales.

HS-C5.3:Energy cannot be created or destroyed—only moves between one place and another place, between objects and/or fields, or between systems.

HS-C6.2:The functions and properties of natural and designed objects and systems can be inferred from their overall structure, the way their components are shaped and used, and the molecular substructures of its various materials.

HS-C7.4:Systems can be designed for greater or lesser stability.

Science and Engineering Practices: 8

Asking Questions and Defining Problems, Developing and Using Models, Planning and Carrying Out Investigations, Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions, Engaging in Argument from Evidence, Obtaining, Evaluating, and Communicating Information

HS-P1.8:Define a design problem that involves the development of a process or system with interacting components and criteria and constraints that may include social, technical, and/or environmental considerations. 

HS-P2.2:Design a test of a model to ascertain its reliability.

HS-P3.2:Plan and conduct an investigation individually and collaboratively to produce data to serve as the basis for evidence, and in the design: decide on types, how much, and accuracy of data needed to produce reliable measurements and consider limitations on the precision of the data (e.g., number of trials, cost, risk, time), and refine the design accordingly.

HS-P4.6: Analyze data to identify design features or characteristics of the components of a proposed process or system to optimize it relative to criteria for success.

HS-P5.3:Apply techniques of algebra and functions to represent and solve scientific and engineering problems.

HS-P6.2:Construct and revise an explanation based on valid and reliable evidence obtained from a variety of sources (including students’ own investigations, models, theories, simulations, peer review) and the assumption that theories and laws that describe the natural world operate today as they did in the past and will continue to do so in the future.

HS-P7.6:Evaluate competing design solutions to a real-world problem based on scientific ideas and principles, empirical evidence, and/or logical arguments regarding relevant factors (e.g. economic, societal, environmental, ethical considerations).

HS-P8.3:Gather, read, and evaluate scientific and/or technical information from multiple authoritative sources, assessing the evidence and usefulness of each source.

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