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Power Your House with Wind

Tyler Maline, Lauren Cooper, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise W. Carlson, University of Colorado

This is a hands-on activity students design, build, and test. They compare the energy-generating capacities of vertical- and horizontal- axis wind turbine prototypes they have built as potential sources for power in a home.

Activity takes about four 50-minute class sessions. Additional material is necessary (see provided list).

Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»

ngssSee how this Activity supports the Next Generation Science Standards»
High School: 1 Performance Expectation, 1 Disciplinary Core Idea, 1 Cross Cutting Concept, 3 Science and Engineering Practices

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

  • There are many activities that allow students to build wind turbines and experiment with them. This is one of the best that we have seen, and the overall design of the activity can be adapted. For example, students could skip the vertical axis wind turbine and instead experiment with blade designs for a horizontal axis turbine (which are the most common type of turbines).
  • Have students conduct their own research on the two types of turbines (design, rationale, extent of use, etc.) before proposing their own prototype designs.
  • This activity could be a good interdisciplinary learning experience, with science, technology/engineering, and math teachers working together.
  • Activity was created in 2007 and primary reference is about the same vintage. While the general approach of the activity is still valid, R&D in the design and use of wind turbines to power residential energy needs may have shifted since then and have bearing on the outcomes of activity.

About the Science

  • Activity compares performance of prototype vertical- and horizontal-axis wind turbines.
  • Technology may be out of date but could be an opportunity to see how the technologies have changed and give basics of wind turbines and how they work.
  • Comments from expert scientist:
    Scientific strengths:
    A practical activity like this is definitely an helpful resource to teach some basics concepts about wind energy and wind turbines.
    Students will easily get familiar with the terminology related to the structural part of wind turbines.
    Note that in determining the ideal locations for wind farms, not only engineers work on this aspect. Different skills from other scientists are necessary to deal with this complex process as well.

About the Pedagogy

  • Students explore wind energy through a variety of activities. First, they build different types of turbines and test them in a range of wind speeds. Then they use calculations to consider different wind turbine configurations and designs to power an energy-efficient house, including determining economic costs and total energy generated. Thus, this activity helps students learn about wind energy from a theoretical, practical, and economic perspective.
  • Lead-up to the design and build steps could be strengthened with more independent research by students rather than relying on the brief background information provided in the activity.
  • Activity worksheet is provided that walks students through the activity but with little scaffolding and no notations on units used or formulas provided.

Technical Details/Ease of Use

  • This is a hands-on activity, and while it is well documented, it is material intensive and will require additional preparation and setup time. The teaching materials include troubleshooting and teaching tips to help with this process.

Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:

High School

Performance Expectations: 1

HS-PS3-3: Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy

Disciplinary Core Ideas: 1

HS-PS3.A2:At the macroscopic scale, energy manifests itself in multiple ways, such as in motion, sound, light, and thermal energy.

Cross Cutting Concepts: 1

Energy and Matter

HS-C5.2:Changes of energy and matter in a system can be described in terms of energy and matter flows into, out of, and within that system.

Science and Engineering Practices: 3

Analyzing and Interpreting Data, Using Mathematics and Computational Thinking, Constructing Explanations and Designing Solutions

HS-P4.1:Analyze data using tools, technologies, and/or models (e.g., computational, mathematical) in order to make valid and reliable scientific claims or determine an optimal design solution.

HS-P5.2:Use mathematical, computational, and/or algorithmic representations of phenomena or design solutions to describe and/or support claims and/or explanations.

HS-P6.5:Design, evaluate, and/or refine a solution to a complex real-world problem, based on scientific knowledge, student-generated sources of evidence, prioritized criteria, and tradeoff considerations.

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