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published by the GreenLearning Canada
This resource for secondary physical science gives step-by-step instructions for building a water-powered electric generator from plastic spoons. The model closely resembles real micro-hydro designs, and can produce enough electricity to light a small light bulb. The 9-page construction plans may be freely downloaded and are organized for first-time builders. Comprehensive background information is provided on water power and renewable energy. All materials can be readily purchased from grocery or hardware store. Links are also provided to animated tours of hydroelectric plants and giant turbines. This item is part of a collection of K-12 projects on renewable energy sources and clean energy technology.

Registered teacher-users have access to a complete lesson plan with teaching tips.

Please note that this resource requires Flash.
Editor's Note: Although this resource is designated for use in Grades 6-12, the reading level for the student guide is Grade 9, and for background information is Grade 10. Overall, the concepts are appropriate for the cognitive level of Grades 7-8, but teacher scaffolding may be needed for unfamiliar vocabulary. High school students should be expected to complete the activity with minimal scaffolding.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
= Mechanical Power
= Work
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromagnetic Induction
= Motors and Generators
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Environmental Science
- High School
- Middle School
- Collection
- Instructional Material
= Activity
= Laboratory
= Lesson/Lesson Plan
= Project
Appropriate Courses Categories Ratings
- Physical Science
- Physics First
- Conceptual Physics
- Algebra-based Physics
- AP Physics
- Lesson Plan
- Activity
- Laboratory
- New teachers
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Safety Warnings
Eye Protection Must be Worn   Safety Gloves Must be worn   Hot Liquids  

Intended Users:
Access Rights:
Free access
© 2007 The Pembina Institute
Additional information is available.
clean energy, energy, energy sources, generator, green energy, hydroelectric energy, hydroelectric generator, mechanical power, renewable energy, water power
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created November 27, 2007 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 27, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 1, 2007

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

4. The Physical Setting

4E. Energy Transformations
  • 6-8: 4E/M2. Energy can be transferred from one system to another (or from a system to its environment) in different ways: 1) thermally, when a warmer object is in contact with a cooler one; 2) mechanically, when two objects push or pull on each other over a distance; 3) electrically, when an electrical source such as a battery or generator is connected in a complete circuit to an electrical device; or 4) by electromagnetic waves.
  • 6-8: 4E/M4. Energy appears in different forms and can be transformed within a system. Motion energy is associated with the speed of an object. Thermal energy is associated with the temperature of an object. Gravitational energy is associated with the height of an object above a reference point. Elastic energy is associated with the stretching or compressing of an elastic object. Chemical energy is associated with the composition of a substance. Electrical energy is associated with an electric current in a circuit. Light energy is associated with the frequency of electromagnetic waves.
4F. Motion
  • 9-12: 4F/H3a. When electrically charged objects undergo a change in motion, they produce electromagnetic waves around them.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M3. Electric currents and magnets can exert a force on each other.
  • 9-12: 4G/H5c. The interplay of electric and magnetic forces is the basis for many modern technologies, including electric motors, generators, and devices that produce or receive electromagnetic waves.

8. The Designed World

8C. Energy Sources and Use
  • 6-8: 8C/M2. Different ways of obtaining, transforming, and distributing energy have different environmental consequences.
  • 6-8: 8C/M8. People have invented ingenious ways of deliberately bringing about energy transformations that are useful to them.
  • 9-12: 8C/H6. The useful energy output of a device—that is, what energy is available for further change—is always less than the energy input, with the difference usually appearing as thermal energy. One goal in the design of such devices is to make them as efficient as possible—that is, to maximize the useful output for a given input.

12. Habits of Mind

12C. Manipulation and Observation
  • 9-12: 12C/H1. Follow instructions in manuals or seek help from an experienced user to learn how to operate new mechanical or electrical devices.

Common Core State Reading Standards for Literacy in Science and Technical Subjects 6—12

Key Ideas and Details (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.3 Follow precisely a multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.11-12.5 Analyze how the text structures information or ideas into categories or hierarchies, demonstrating understanding of the information or ideas.
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • RST.6-8.7 Integrate quantitative or technical information expressed in words in a text with a version of that information expressed visually (e.g., in a flowchart, diagram, model, graph, or table).
  • RST.11-12.9 Synthesize information from a range of sources (e.g., texts, experiments, simulations) into a coherent understanding of a process, phenomenon, or concept, resolving conflicting information when possible.
Range of Reading and Level of Text Complexity (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.10 By the end of grade 10, read and comprehend science/technical texts in the grades 9—10 text complexity band independently and proficiently.

This resource is part of a Physics Front Topical Unit.

Topic: Conservation of Energy
Unit Title: Energy Forms and Sources

This resource gives step-by-step instructions for building a water-powered electric generator from plastic spoons.  The model closely resembles real micro-hydro designs, and can produce enough electricity to light a small light bulb.  Detailed background information and links to animated tours of hydroelectric power plants are included.

Link to Unit:
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Record Link
AIP Format
(GreenLearning Canada, 2007), WWW Document, (http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator).
Build a Hydro Generator, (GreenLearning Canada, 2007), <http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator>.
APA Format
Build a Hydro Generator. (2007, January 1). Retrieved June 26, 2017, from GreenLearning Canada: http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator
Chicago Format
GreenLearning Canada. Build a Hydro Generator. GreenLearning Canada, January 1, 2007. http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator (accessed 26 June 2017).
MLA Format
Build a Hydro Generator. GreenLearning Canada, 2007. 1 Jan. 2007. 26 June 2017 <http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Build a Hydro Generator}, Publisher = {GreenLearning Canada}, Volume = {2017}, Number = {26 June 2017}, Month = {January 1, 2007}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%T Build a Hydro Generator
%D January 1, 2007
%I GreenLearning Canada
%U http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator
%O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source
%D January 1, 2007
%T Build a Hydro Generator
%I GreenLearning Canada
%V 2017
%N 26 June 2017
%8 January 1, 2007
%9 text/html
%U http://www.re-energy.ca/hydro-generator

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