Last fall, Kelly Egaas from Global Connections High School applied for an Excel Grant. The Wind Generator Project is a great example of the Global Connections science teachers’ work with STEM (science, technology, engineering and math; a holistic, real-world approach to designing a project). The Wind Generator Project incorporates theoretical background on process (how generators work), engineering design and testing, graphical representations of results, and culminates in a formal presentation of the project, including demonstrating a working model to a group of professionals.
The Wind Power Generator Unit requires 9th grade science students to think like engineers to create a generator. Students demonstrate their understanding of electrical induction by working as a team to collaborate on research, design and testing of a generator that they construct. Working with wire, magnets and a variety of building materials, teams construct generators that they test with an air compressor that simulates wind and a multimeter to register the amount of electricity produced. Teams have to go through the process of testing and adjusting three times and justify their improvements at each trial.
The culmination of the project is when Student Engineering Teams formally present their generators to panels of industry experts. Professional engineers come in and serve as a panel. Students present their generators, showing them working. They justify every adjustment that they made to their generator, speak about their research and original plan and evaluate how wind generators compare with other forms of renewable energy.
With the materials requested through this grant, the science teachers (Kelly Egaas and Gene Danielson) at Global Connections High School can take this project to the next level. Right now, the Student Engineering Teams are limited in the types of adjustments that they can make. Currently there is only one type, strength and size of magnets. With the different types of magnets, more wire, glue guns and the new air compressors, students possibilities for adjustment are wide open. The more materials available, the more of a true engineer’s experience that our students will have. Also, there is one multimeter that is shared among seven different classes, therefore the testing and adapting phase of the scientific process is hard to replicate because of access issues. With an additional two sets multimeters, students will have more opportunities to test and adjust their generators instead of waiting all class period to use our one set. These materials will be so important in creating a real engineering opportunity for our students.
The learning outcomes for the Generator Project are:
- I can explain the concept of electrical induction.
- I can explain the benefits and drawbacks of wind power and compare wind power to other forms of renewable energy.
- I think like an engineer. I research different design approaches, collaborate with my engineering team to make a plan, gather my materials and build my prototype. Through the scientific method I go through a process of testing and adjusting my generator to increase the electrical induction produced by wind power.
- I justify my modifications with data.
In her final report, Kelly told us “We definitely accomplished what we set out to do. Students were involved in a STEM project that allowed them to learn and work toward meeting Next Gen Science Standards through hands on activities and culminating with a presentation to a panel of experts. Students learned engineering principals by designing and building a wind powered generator. A lot of their learning came from refining their designs and figuring out how to make them better. “
The Excel Grant allowed us to buy materials this year that opened up the possibilities for more creativity and opportunities to improve their designs. In the past, limitations in the types of equipment we had available to kids made it more of a cookie cutter activity, where they all ended up building the same basic design. This year the students had access to more wire, multiple different types of magnets, and many different materials for building the structure and the turbine, which allowed for a more authentic task of coming up with a design plan without artificial classroom constraints stopping them from building something new and different. This really allowed them to apply their knowledge of electromagnetic induction, and allowed me the freedom to let them build their designs and learn from data collection and testing what worked and what didn’t.
They even posted one of their presentation videos on YouTube! Check it out: YouTube