Wind turbine

Convert wind energy into electrical energy, by hooking a generator (backwards 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)
  • motor, high voltage for relatively low rpm (this Vernier motor recommended)
  • 'super red' low voltage LED bulb (1.9-2.1V worked for me)
  • little fan e.g. dollar store mini windmill, or purchased propellor

Note that a motor and a generator are the same device, run in opposite directions.

First test that the generator can generate enough voltage to light the bulb:
Attach the bulb to the motor terminals (check orientation) and spin the shaft with a flick of your fingers.
If the bulb briefly lights up brightly, the motor might also work with a blade attached.

Either use a purchased propellor, or make your own:
Take the handle off a mini windmill (dollar store fine), and glue a dowel or other shaft through the blades, which can be drilled out to fit snugly over the motor shaft (often 2mm diameter).
Attach the fan to the motor shaft.

Blow on the fan/propelor to make the motor turn and light the bulb.
Using an alternate motor to the one recommended, it may take quite a hard breath to get the bulb to light, and your breath might have to be at just the right angle, so might be a challenge for students.
A leaf blower may spin the fan fast enough to light the bulb.


Activity inspired by
It took quite a bit of messing around to find a suitable motor or enough wind power to get this working (a leaf blower can give more wind than your breath!)

Grades taught
Gr 3
Gr 4
Gr 5
Gr 6
Gr 7