STEM ready

Wind Turbines

Driving or Multi-dimensional Question:

How can we, as engineers, design a better wind turbine?

Unit Summary:

Students will learn about wind energy and experiment with different variables on a wind turbine to find which produces the most energy. Finally, students will identify and solve problems with wind turbines.

Hook Event:

Students will read the book “Energy Island,” as a mentor text. Students will analyze renewable vs. nonrenewable resources.

Mentor texts: “Energy Island,” by Allan Drummond
“The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind” by William Kamkwamba

Culminating Event:

Students will identify and solve problems with current wind turbines and solve these problems using the engineering design process. Students will present their design ideas by designing a brochure, social media account for their product, or a YouTube video. Students will be graded on a rubric.


Science Standards:

5.ETS1: Engineering Design 1) Research, test, re-test, and communicate a design to solve a problem. 2) Plan and carry out tests on one or more elements of a prototype in which the variables are controlled and failure points are considered to identify which elements need to be improved. Apply the results of tests to redesign the prototype. 3) Describe how failure provides valuable information toward finding a solution.

Math Standards:

5.G.A.1 Graph ordered pairs and label points using the first quadrant of the coordinate plane. Understand in the ordered pair that the first number indicates the horizontal distance traveled along the x-axis from the origin and the second number indicates the vertical distance traveled along the y-axis, with the convention that the names of the two axes and the coordinates correspond (e.g., x-axis and x-coordinate, y-axis and y-coordinate).

ELA and Other Standards:

5.W.TTP.2 Write informative/explanatory texts to examine a topic and convey ideas and information.
a. Introduce a topic by providing a general observation and focus.
b. Group related information logically, including formatting features, illustrations, and multimedia when needed to provide clarity to the reader.
c. Develop the topic with facts, definitions, concrete details, quotations, or other information and examples related to the topic.
d. Provide a conclusion related to the information or explanation presented.
e. Link ideas within and across categories or information using words, phrases and clauses.
f. Use precise language and domain-specific vocabulary to inform about or explain the topic.
g. Apply language standards addressed in the Foundational Literacy Standards.

Daily Activities

For more information on this lesson please see the Lesson Resources below

 ActivitiesResources and Materials

Activity One



Ask: What is the problem? Students learn about wind energy. Provide students with 4-5 approved websites and allow them time to research in groups answering the following questions:

-Where does wind come from?
-Where is wind going?

-Who developed the first wind turbines?

-When did wind energy become popular?

Students should be able to find answers about the density of the air and how the air moves sideways as well as upward. Students should be able to explain the wind turbines can be dated as far back as 5000 B.C. when people traveled along the Nile River to propel their boats with wind. Students also might note the Dutch using windmills and those becoming turbines as early as 1890.

Suggested websites for research:






Activity Two

Imagine: Students will understand how wind turbines work and the parts of a modern wind turbine. As the wind blows, the force of the air pushes the blades around. The denser the air the more force it will exert on the blades, hence cold winter air can produce more electricity. The spinning of the blades turns the shaft into the generator which creates the electrical current.

Activity Three

Plan & Create: Students will then participate in small groups in order to complete today’s challenge. Students experiment with different variables (shape, number of blades, length, and angle in order to see who can produce the most wind energy). Have students come up with the different variables and list them on the board. Optional, students can choose their own groups and come up with a group name.

Students will work through the different steps of the engineering design process: ask, imagine, plan, create and improve with their groups just like real engineers. Allow time for students to sketch out ideas and communicate them with group members.

Optional extension, students could have a budget to purchase necessary materials. Students would have to submit an actual line item budget as a real engineer would on a project before “purchasing materials.”

Once students have had time to imagine and plan with groups, students can either receive or “purchase” their materials they will need to create their turbines. Suggested materials: pencils, scrap paper, cardboard, scissors, dowels, hubs and rulers.  The hubs come from a kit with If this is not an available option, there are free wind turbine templates online

Once students have had the opportunity to build their turbines, allow students to test them and record their data.

If students used a KidWind product they can record voltage, or how fast their turbine is spinning. Alternately, if you are using a paper turbine students can mark one of their blades in a bright color to note how many times their turbine spins in 1 minute time span. Students will record this data on an x,y axis. The number of blade rotations would be the x variable and the y would be amount of time in seconds.

With KidWind kit the x variable would be speed of turbine rotation and the y would be voltage. 

Activity Four

Students should be able to identify and discuss what characteristics made their design successful or not and discuss them as a group. Students will communicate failures and use that knowledge to redesign and then improve their turbine by recreating a turbine.  Students will compare their data with their previous attempts. Students will have a class discussion of what went well and what didn’t when their improved designs are completed and tested.  


Activity Five

In this lesson, students will research wind turbines and identify common complaints with current wind turbine design. Students will use what they know as engineers from previous lessons to determine the best design for a wind turbine of the future and address one complaint of current turbines.

Students will determine which presentation mode they will use to present their designs.  Rubric attached.

Suggested current event:


Technology Integration: Students will be using technology to research wind turbines and multimeters to calculate the energy of each design.

Community PartnersContribution to Learning ExperienceContact Information

Guest speaker

Local MeteorologistGuest speaker, hands on with creation of wind turbines 
Local Power CompanyGuest speaker, hands on with creation of wind turbines, donation of materials 

Capstone Presentation:

Students will identify and solve problems with current wind turbines and solve these problems using the engineering design process. Students will present their design ideas by designing a brochure, social media account for their product, or a YouTube video. Students will be graded on a rubric.

Lesson Resources