Wind Power Explorers: Building a Mini Windmill

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Today’s STEM experiment is a fun DIY windmill for children that allows you to talk about renewable energy and engineering principles with your child.

Building a small windmill is a fun way to introduce your child to the world of engineering, and the best part is, it can be done at home! In this post, we will walk you through the steps of building a small windmill with your preschooler.

This engineering experiment is a great way to teach your child about the basics of wind power. You can explain to your child how windmills work by using your completed windmill as a visual aid. Windmills are designed to capture the energy of the wind and use it to power other devices. In this case, the energy from the wind is used to spin the blades of the windmill.

Today’s experiment is easy to put together and packs a good amount of education in it (not just engineering, but also renewable energy!). Let’s take this experiment for a spin!

create a windmill engineering experiment for kids and preschoolers

How to make the Wind Power Explorers engineering experiment

Supplies you will need

For this experiment, you will need the following:

  • Paper plate
  • Wooden dowelOpens in a new tab.
  • A bendy plastic straw
  • Scissors
  • Tape
  • Markers or crayons (optional)
Supplies for the Wind Power Explorers experiment

Before you start

Since we are using adult scissors, please watch your child while you are cutting the straw and the paper plate.

Instructions

Here is how to do the Wind Power Explorers engineering experiment with your toddler:

Step 1: Cut out the blades

Cut blades in the paper plate

Cut out the blades along your paper plate by taking your scissors and cutting about 2″ in. You’ll repeat this until you have made cuts all around the paper plate. Make sure they’re all about the same size.

You can color each blade if you would like, but I’d recommend it! It looks a lot more festive with colorful blades.

Fold the blades

Once your blades are cut, you will fold each blade about 90 degrees in, all in the same direction (see picture).

Final product of creating the blades in the paper plate

Step 2: Poke a hole in the center of the paper plate

Poke a hole in the paper plate for the straw in a later step

Use either your pencil/dowel or a pair of scissors to make a small hole in the center of the paper plate. This hole should be about the size of the straw, but not much bigger.

Get your preschooler involved: Helping your child, allow them to poke a hole in the center of the paper plate.

Step 3: Cut your plastic straw

Cut about 1.5″ down from the bendy portion of the straw

We are going to cut two pieces from our straw. The first piece is keeping the bendy part of the straw intact. Cut about 1.5″ below the bendy part of the straw.

The second piece of straw you will cut will be from the remaining part of the straw (so there will be no bendy pieces in this cut). Cut this piece of straw about 3″ long.

Cut the straight piece of straw to about 3 inches

The plastic straw with the bendy portion in this windmill experiment serves as a support structure for the blades. It acts as a central axis around which the blades can rotate freely when exposed to airflow.

The second piece of straw provides stability for the bendy portion.

Step 4: Create the structure

Insert the dowel or pencil into the straw

Start by grabbing the cut straw with the bendy piece and your dowel/pencil. We are going to push the dowel/pencil into the straw piece so they become one unit (I was only able to get about 1/4″ of the dowel into the straw, but that was enough).

Next, we’re going to add a little bit of support for our windmill.

Grab the second piece of cut straw and, using tape, connect it to the bendy straw piece at a 45-degree angle (see picture).

Add support for the bendy straw

Get your preschooler involved: See if your child is able to add the straw to the dowel/pencil!

Step 5: Finish up the windmill

Insert the straw into the paper plate

Finally, we are going to place the paper plate on our structure to complete the windmill.

The bendy piece of straw, which is sticking out 90 degrees from the pencil/dowel, is where you’ll place the paper plate.

Step 6: Blow on the blades or attach it to a fan or motor to see your windmill in action!

Hold the dowel/pencil and blow on the paper plate to see it spin!

You can also place it outside somewhere to see how the wind catches it.

The engineering behind the Wind Power Explorers engineering experiment

This experiment teaches:

  • Concept of renewable energy
  • Basic engineering principles
  • Patience and determination

How it works

When we blow on the windmill or put it in front of a fan, the wind makes the blades spin around. The blades are like wings that catch the wind. When the wind blows, it pushes the blades, making them spin around.

In real life, big windmills make electricity by using the wind’s power. They can also pump water from deep underground or grind grains into flour.

By building our own windmill, we’re learning about engineering and how wind energy works. It’s a fun experiment that shows us how wind can make things move.

The concept of renewable energy

By building a windmill and observing how it uses wind energy to turn the blades, we can teach our kids to understand the idea of renewable energy. This concept teaches them that energy can be harnessed from natural sources, like the wind, to power everyday devices.

Large wind turbines are used to harness the power of the wind and convert it into electricity. This electricity is then used to power homes and businesses. If you see windmills while you’re out and about, be sure to point them out to your child!

You can explain to your child how wind turbines work by using your windmill as a visual aid. The wind turns the blades of the turbine, which in turn spin a generator to produce electricity.

Basic engineering principles

Building a windmill is an engineering experiment that introduces preschoolers to basic engineering principles. Engineering is all about designing and creating things that work. When we build a windmill, we use engineering to make it strong and able to catch the wind.

The windmill has different parts that work together. The blades, which we attach to a straw, are like wings. They catch the wind and start to spin. The blades need to be evenly spaced, so they can rotate smoothly.

The straw acts as the support for the blades. It holds them in place and lets them spin freely.

So, when we build a windmill, we’re using engineering skills to design and construct something that can harness the power of the wind.

Patience and determination

Windmill building involves trial and error, as preschoolers may need to adjust the design of their windmill to get it to work correctly. This process teaches them the importance of experimentation and iteration, as they learn from their mistakes and make improvements to their windmill until it works like it’s supposed to.

This lesson promotes a growth mindset and encourages perseverance.

More engineering experiments to try out with your child

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