Wind turbine

Demonstrate conversion of wind energy into electrical energy, by hooking a motor to a low-volt LED light.
Science content
Physics: Energy forms, Conservation of Energy (1, 3, 4, 5)
Physics: Electricity, Electromagnetism (7)
Earth/Space: Sustainable practices, Interconnectedness (2, 5, 7)
  • DC hobby motor (6-12V recommended, but test any hobby motors you have)
  • 'super red' low voltage LED bulb (1.9-2.1V worked for me)
  • little fan e.g. dollar store mini windmill
  • optional: hair dryer, leaf blower or other powerful blower, though breath works as well

First test that the motor in reverse can generate enough voltage to light the bulb by hand-spinning the motor shaft. Attach the bulb to the motor terminals (try both orientations) and spin the shaft with a flick of your fingers. If the bulb briefly lights up, the motor can also work with blades attached.

Take the handle off a mini windmill, and glue to a dowel or other shaft, which can be drilled out to fit snugly over the motor shaft.
Attach the fan to the motor shaft.
Blow hard on the fan to make the motor turn and light the bulb. (Make sure the bulb is in the correct orientation.) The bulb may only light briefly when your breath is at just the right angle. It can be a challenge for students to try and light the bulb briefly.
If you have a powerful fan such as a leaf blower, this may spin the fan fast enough to light the bulb.


Activity inspired by
It took quite a bit of messing around to find a low voltage bulb, a suitable motor and enough wind power to get this working. I only use it as a demonstration, which I can hold for students to try blowing on also.

Grades taught
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6