Magazine article Technology and Children

Capturing Air in Motion: A Wind-Energy Activity

Magazine article Technology and Children

Capturing Air in Motion: A Wind-Energy Activity

Article excerpt


We need energy to do things. It takes energy to kick a soccer ball, cook a pizza, or brush your teeth. Plants use energy from the sun to grow, and people need energy from their food (plants and animals) in order to work or play. Thanks to sound energy, we can enjoy music from our iPods[R] and the school band. We need heat energy to keep warm and light energy to see everything around us. We rely on electrical energy to do a vast array of tasks today, and that electricity is made possible by changing energy from one form to another.

Energy is fundamental to life. And, it's an important resource in technology. Without energy, we could not solve technological problems. For example, energy is needed in order to run the machines that we use in factories to mass-produce products. Energy is needed on farms to plant and harvest crops. Every day we rely upon energy to transport people, move goods, communicate across long distances, and construct shelters and other structures.


Most of the energy sources we rely upon today to develop solutions to our technical problems and to meet these needs and wants come from nonrenewable sources such as coal, oil, and natural gas. But, people are becoming increasingly interested in finding and using renewable energy sources that are easily replenished and less harmful to the environment, such as solar energy and geothermal energy.

Wind energy is also a renewable energy source because it cannot be depleted. We will always have wind to harness. However, we must recognize that the amount of wind available varies a lot according to location and season, and that can affect how and when we can use it to solve our energy problems.

We capture air in motion (wind) and use that energy to do lots of useful things today. In its simplest form, we capture the wind's energy in sails to move vessels across the water. Kites capture the wind's energy as they sail high above our heads. But, wind machines have been used for many other important things such as grinding corn and pumping water. Today, wind moves huge turbines that can convert mechanical energy into electrical energy that can power the many conveniences we rely upon daily such as televisions, refrigerators, microwave ovens, lamps, hair dryers, and much more.

Wind energy is an important source of energy. And, it makes an excellent energy source for children to explore in the classroom. In this activity, students will explore wind energy while they solve a meaningful technological problem. By participating in this activity, children will learn and apply concepts across the curriculum including science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM).

the context

You live in a beautiful, seaside community that is famous for its steep cliffs, gusty breezes, and rich seafood. However, getting the fresh catch from the shore to the townspeople is treacherous across difficult roads with hairpin turns. Community members would like to find a way to quickly move the large fish up the cliff and to the people quickly, safely, and efficiently.

the challenge

Working in teams of two, design a turbine that can harness the wind's energy to raise the fishermen's catch from the shore (classroom floor) to the townspeople at the top of the cliff (desktop). Your turbine must be able to connect to the machine base already mounted at the top of the cliff. The best design will raise at least 10 fish (small paper clips) in the least amount of time.


Each base unit:

* Shoe box

* I dowel rod (diameter should be slightly smaller than the hole made by your hole punch; length should be 3-4" longer than the width of your box)

* String or yarn (about 3-4')

* 1 large paper clip

Suggested materials to consider for student designs:

* Paper clips (large and small)

* Glue sticks or bottled glue

* Tape (clear and/or masking)

* Heavy paper (card stock)

* Sheets of craft foam

* Index cards

* Toothpicks

* Small Styrofoam balls (1"-1. …

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