Tyler Maline, Lauren Cooper, Malinda Schaefer Zarske, Denise W. Carlson, University of Colorado
Activity takes about four 50-minute class sessions. Additional material is necessary (see provided list).Learn more about Teaching Climate Literacy and Energy Awareness»
See 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
About Teaching Climate Literacy
4.2 Human use of energy is subject to limits and constraints.
5.4 Economic factors.
5.6 Environmental factors.
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Teaching Tips | Science | Pedagogy |
- 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- Technology may be out of date but could be an opportunity to see how the technologies have changed and give basics of wind turbines and how they work.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:
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.
Next Generation Science Standards See how this Activity supports:
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
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
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.