Get the whole classroom involved in alternative energy with the 10 savonius wind turbine lesson plans, demonstration ideas and student hands-on activities.
Definition of savonius: A windmill composed of two semi-cylindrical offset cups rotating about a vertical axis. This is a mechanical engineering term.
Wind energy is a renewable energy resource that has the potential to minimize political, economical and environmental costs that fossils fuels have generated. However, in order to reap the benefits of wind energy efficient wind turbines have to be created. Students can join the search for the perfect wind turbine design by modifying and building Savonius wind turbines. These projects can be used to not only examine wind turbine energy efficiency and energy generation potential, but they can also teach important lessons about kinetic, potential, renewable and non-renewable energy.
Savonius Wind Turbine Lesson Plans
Lesson One: Types of Energy
The first lesson needs to focus on the various forms or types of energy, with the majority of the discussion being on kinetic and potential energy. As you discuss kinetic and potential energy you will want to give examples of various forms of energy and how they are used in modern life. For example, you can create a list of tools that utilize energy, such as a gas stove, and then discuss what types of energy the gas stove uses, namely chemical energy and thermal energy. You can further your discussion by explaining that when the stove is not in use it has potential energy and when the over is turned on and heat is produced to cook food it utilizes kinetic energy.
Lesson Two: Power
Lesson two is all about how energy is translated into what we consider power. Power, which is simply a conversion of one form of energy to another, can be expressed in a number of ways. Most students will have heard about a watt, which is equal to one joule per second or 1 J/s. However, for the amount of power that humans consume a single watt of power is usually an inadequate descriptor, so kilowatts is the more common measurement. You will want to explain to your students that there are 1,000 watts in a kilowatt and that the local power company will generally express their power measurements in kilowatts per hour.
After discussing the vocabulary for this lesson you can undertake a classroom project where students collect data on how much power they use in a single day, week or month. To do this your students will want to bring in their family’s power bill. This data will be used to create a table of home power usage. However, remind your students that they use power throughout the day and not just at home. In order to get an accurate estimate of how much power they use in a day, week or month, you will also need to figure out how much power is used at school, for transportation, at stores and for other things.
Lesson Three: Sources of Electricity
Lesson three will be divided into two different topics. The first topic will be sources of electricity. To cover this topic you will want to discuss the various sources of electricity including fossil fuels, hydroelectricity, wind power, nuclear energy and renewable energy sources. The second topic will be the environmental impact of each energy source. To cover this topic you will want to discuss the pollution created by each energy source, you will want to talk about specific pollutants like carbon dioxide, sulfuric oxides and nitric oxides. Weigh the pros and cons of each energy source and decide if there is one source of electricity that is better than the others.
Lesson Four: Fossil Fuels
Lesson four is all about fossil fuels. In this lesson you will want to cover how fossil fuels are created, the concept of a non-renewable energy source, how fossil fuels are used and why they are the source of political turmoil. There are several activities that your students can complete, such as creating graphs of fossil fuel use in the United States and in other countries, completing short research projects about fossil fuel usage trends and comparing the amount of fossil fuels produced by the United States compared to the amount that it uses in a year.
Lesson Five: Renewable Energy Sources
This lesson is all about renewable energy sources like wind power, hydroelectric power and solar power. In this lesson you will want to first identify all the current renewable energy sources and discuss how each source is translated from energy to power. Then identify the pros and cons of each energy source. Finally, compare the pros and cons of renewable energy sources to those of fossil fuels. Refer to previous lessons.
Lesson Six: Building a Wind Turbine
Now that students have an understanding of energy and power it is time for them to build a wind turbine. You have a couple of options. Your first option is to use a PicoTurbine kit to construct windmills according to the exact specifications that came with the kit. Your second option is to allow your students to modify the design of the windmill turbine to see if they can increase its efficiency.
This is a team project. Student teams can be made up of between 2 and 4 students. Each team will need a PicoTurbine kit, additional building materials and tools.
Lesson Seven: Evaluating the Results
This lesson is going to focus on collecting data and analyzing the results. After your students have built their wind turbines you will need to test them and record the amount of power that is generated by each one. Compare the results and determine which design produced the best electrical output.
Lesson Eight: More EvaluationsWhile producing electricity is an important function of a wind turbine’s design, the turbine is worthless if it is not stable. It is because of this that you will want to look at each design’s stability while it is in action. Determine the stability of each model based on how much it wobbles.
Lesson Nine: Amount of Wind
The next area that you will want to have your students evaluate is the amount of wind energy that is required for each model to operate. Have your students come up with ideas about why it is important for a wind turbine to work even when the strength of the wind is minimal.
Lesson Ten: Blade Design
In this lesson students will be asked to modify the design of their blades to produce more energy. After modification collect data and compare results from previous experiments. Did the new blades make the students’ designs more or less efficient?
Before attempting this experiment the teacher will want to review terminology and concepts related to energy, voltage, current and electricity. The experiment itself will involve the building of four different circuits. Students will need to examine how modifications to a circuit impact the amount of power that is delivered, and students will also want to examine how a capacitor impacts the circuit and the amount of power that is produced.
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