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This hands-on project provides step-by-step instructions for building a vertical axis wind turbine in secondary classrooms.  The 17-page construction plans may be freely downloaded and are organized for first-time builders. Comprehensive background information on wind energy and renewable energy are provided. Registered teacher-users also have access to supporting lesson plans. All of the materials are readily available in hardware or grocery stores. This resource, which meets multiple national science standards, was developed to spark students' interest in learning more about renewable energy sources and the science and engineering principles that underlie the harnessing of renewable power.
Editor's Note: Wind turbines work by using an internal generator to convert the mechanical energy of the spinning turbine shaft into electricity. This particular project is modeled after the Savonius rotor system, which uses uses drag -- not lift -- to capture energy for making electricity. Although it isn't as efficient as a conventional horizontal axis turbine, it is much easier to build.
Subjects Levels Resource Types
Classical Mechanics
- Work and Energy
= Conservation of Energy
= Mechanical Power
Education Practices
- Active Learning
Electricity & Magnetism
- Electromagnetic Induction
= Motors and Generators
Other Sciences
- Engineering
- Environmental Science
- High School
- Middle School
- 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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Access to supporting lesson plans are available only to registered teacher-users.
© 2007 The Pembina Institute
Additional information is available.
clean energy, clean energy project, energy, energy sources, engineering design, green energy, renewable energy, wind energy, wind turbine
Record Cloner:
Metadata instance created October 25, 2007 by Caroline Hall
Record Updated:
September 27, 2012 by Caroline Hall
Last Update
when Cataloged:
January 1, 2007

AAAS Benchmark Alignments (2008 Version)

3. The Nature of Technology

3A. Technology and Science
  • 6-8: 3A/M3. Engineers, architects, and others who engage in design and technology use scientific knowledge to solve practical problems. They also usually have to take human values and limitations into account.
  • 9-12: 3A/H3a. Technology usually affects society more directly than science does because technology solves practical problems and serves human needs (and also creates new problems and needs).
  • 9-12: 3A/H4. Engineers use knowledge of science and technology, together with strategies of design, to solve practical problems. Scientific knowledge provides a means of estimating what the behavior of things will be even before they are made. Moreover, science often suggests new kinds of behavior that had not even been imagined before, and so leads to new technologies.
3C. Issues in Technology
  • 6-8: 3C/M8. Scientific laws, engineering principles, properties of materials, and construction techniques must be taken into account in designing engineering solutions to problems.

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.
4G. Forces of Nature
  • 6-8: 4G/M3. Electric currents and magnets can exert a force on each other.
  • 6-8: 4G/M4. Electrical circuits require a complete loop through which an electrical current can pass.
  • 9-12: 4G/H5ab. Magnetic forces are very closely related to electric forces and are thought of as different aspects of a single electromagnetic force. Moving electrically charged objects produces magnetic forces and moving magnets produces electric forces.
  • 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/M4. Electrical energy can be generated from a variety of energy resources and can be transformed into almost any other form of energy. Electric circuits are used to distribute energy quickly and conveniently to distant locations.
  • 6-8: 8C/M8. People have invented ingenious ways of deliberately bringing about energy transformations that are useful to them.
  • 9-12: 8C/H5. Decisions to slow the depletion of energy resources can be made at many levels, from personal to national, and they always involve trade-offs involving economic costs and social values.

11. Common Themes

11A. Systems
  • 9-12: 11A/H2. Understanding how things work and designing solutions to problems of almost any kind can be facilitated by systems analysis. In defining a system, it is important to specify its boundaries and subsystems, indicate its relation to other systems, and identify what its input and output are expected to be.
11B. Models
  • 6-8: 11B/M6. A model can sometimes be used to get ideas about how the thing being modeled actually works, but there is no guarantee that these ideas are correct if they are based on the model alone.
  • 9-12: 11B/H5. The behavior of a physical model cannot ever be expected to represent the full-scale phenomenon with complete accuracy, not even in the limited set of characteristics being studied. The inappropriateness of a model may be related to differences between the model and what is being modeled.

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.9-10.3 Follow precisely a complex multistep procedure when carrying out experiments, taking measurements, or performing technical tasks, attending to special cases or exceptions defined in the text.
Craft and Structure (6-12)
  • RST.9-10.5 Analyze the structure of the relationships among concepts in a text, including relationships among key terms (e.g., force, friction, reaction force, energy).
Integration of Knowledge and Ideas (6-12)
  • 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 vertical axis wind turbine in secondary classrooms.  The 17-page construction plans may be freely downloaded and are organized for first-time builders.  A printable lesson plan is provided, as well as comprehensive background information on wind energy. Highly recommended: Meets all 3 Dimensions of the NGSS for integrating the engineering design process in building, testing, and refining a device that converts energy from one form to another.

Link to Unit:
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AIP Format
(GreenLearning Canada, 2007), WWW Document, (http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine).
Build a Wind Turbine (GreenLearning Canada, 2007), <http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine>.
APA Format
Build a Wind Turbine. (2007, January 1). Retrieved June 20, 2024, from GreenLearning Canada: http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine
Chicago Format
GreenLearning Canada. Build a Wind Turbine. GreenLearning Canada, January 1, 2007. http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine (accessed 20 June 2024).
MLA Format
Build a Wind Turbine. GreenLearning Canada, 2007. 1 Jan. 2007. 20 June 2024 <http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine>.
BibTeX Export Format
@misc{ Title = {Build a Wind Turbine}, Publisher = {GreenLearning Canada}, Volume = {2024}, Number = {20 June 2024}, Month = {January 1, 2007}, Year = {2007} }
Refer Export Format

%T Build a Wind Turbine %D January 1, 2007 %I GreenLearning Canada %U http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine %O text/html

EndNote Export Format

%0 Electronic Source %D January 1, 2007 %T Build a Wind Turbine %I GreenLearning Canada %V 2024 %N 20 June 2024 %8 January 1, 2007 %9 text/html %U http://www.re-energy.ca/wind-turbine

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