MacGyver Windmill Challenge
Aug 31, 2020
Well, hello there. I'm professor max powers. Energy expert power preserver and lightbulb aficionado. The following is brought to you by my good friends at the Kansas energy program. They provide energy education and assistance to small businesses, K through 12 educators and Kansas organizations and residents. And it's all possible thanks to funding from the Kansas corporation commission through a U.S. Department of Energy grant. If you want to see more of their brilliant work, go to professor max powers dot com and be sure to check out a few of my videos while you're there. Hey everybody, this is Kurt. And I'm Ryan. And we're back today with another activity that you can do at home in the classroom or anywhere with a fan and some spare supplies. It's called them Macgyver windmill because you have to build the windmill out of whatever materials you have on hand. The ultimate goal is to use the windmill to capture energy from the wind and use it to lift as much weight as possible. During this activity, which is suitable for people of all ages, participants will not only learn about wind energy, but also independent and dependent variables. In this example, an independent variable might be the size, shape, or number of blades on the windmill. The dependent variable will be how much weight the windmill can lift, because it depends upon the changes you made to the windmill. To complete this activity, you'll need to gather materials from around the house to construct your Macgyver windmill. Make sure you check with an adult on what you're allowed to use. Here are the main parts you'll need. Blades, a hub, a drive shaft, a tube for holding the drive shaft. Items to attach all parts to each other, such as pins or tape, string, weights, such as coins or washers, a cup to hold the weights, a spool or something to wrap the string around, scissors, a hole punch, a ruler, and any other tools you might want to use. You will also need a fan to see how well your Macgyver windmill performs. Here's an example of what the Macgyver windmill typically looks like if you use the standard materials. You can see how we attach the windmill blades to the hub. Which is just a cut up section of a pool noodle. We then put the dowel rod, our drive shaft, through the straw so that we can hold onto the straw and the drive shaft can turn inside it. We then use string a spool and cup for the weight lifting portion of our windmill. If you're doing this from home, you'll probably not have the same supplies as the ones we've just shown. And that's okay. Having to find our own materials makes us be more creative and who knows. Maybe your windmill will do even better because of it. To give you an idea, what materials you might be able to use, kirt and I built Macgyver windmills ourselves using materials found from around our houses. Okay, so let's talk about some of the things I found at home. So I found this piece of foam. I thought it would be good as a hub. I could easily attach some blades to that end, my drive shaft. I've got some straws to use as my drive shaft. Some push pins and tee pins that I can use to fasten some things together. I've got construction paper for my blades, and then a cup and some string. Now I've got my tools, scissors, tape, and a hole punch. So let's get started. All right, so here are all of the materials that I brought from home. So you can see I have some of my tools that scissors, tape, the hole punch. I also have a couple options for my hub. So I have this oatmeal container and some cups, and also cups for holding the weights. And then I also have a couple pieces of string. And paper, and then I have paper and some just paper brown paper sacks. I thought those might work for my fan part of my fan blades, as well as I might use the pencils and the chopsticks for that as well. Or I have some paint stir sticks. I just want to make sure I had plenty of options. If any of you have watched the sale car video, you know that I really struggle with that one so I thought, okay, I'm going to bring some possibilities here. In case one of them doesn't work out. And then for my drive shaft, I brought a dowel, and then I also brought just some old piece of X plumbing. And I brought that as my tube so that my drive shaft will be able to go through that. So those are my parts and I'm going to go ahead and get to building. As you can see, there's a lot of opportunity to be creative with this project. Now Ryan and I will show you how we built our own Macgyver wood mills. So you can get an idea for how this activity might go. Okay, so one of the first things you're going to notice is that I am moving about twice as fast as Kurt. And that is because like with the sale car challenge, I took quite a bit longer to build mine than Kurt. As you can see, the basis for mine, my hub is this oatmeal container with a large down rod that I was using as my drive shaft. Yeah, so I started with a piece of foam for mine for the hub. I cut that down to a little bit smaller size because my windmill is going to be a lot smaller than Ryan's. He had a lot more ambitious design with his. And then for my blades. I did a pinwheel. I stole that idea from one of our participants in the kid win challenge who used it. And it worked out pretty well, so I thought I'd use it. Yeah, and right now you can see that I am working on the blades for my windmill. I ended up using pencils to hold the to attach the blades to my hub. And then so one of the other things that I really kind of had difficulties with is keeping the drive shaft centered in that oatmeal container. So initially I had shoved some of the brown paper stacks around that to kind of keep it centered, but as it turns out that it didn't work super well. So I ended up a little bit later using chopsticks to kind of center it in here on the video right now. I'm working on attaching the cup to the string and then to the drive shaft. Yeah, so I'm finishing up my pinwheel here and then I'm going to attach it to my hub with just a little thumbtack that actually I think I use T pins. The thumbtack didn't go quite deep enough into the foam to hold it steady. So I used a couple of T pins on there. And then for my drive shaft, I had a plastic straw that wasn't very long, so that's why I cut down my hub a little bit and then you can see here I'm trying to fit the straw. A different straw around the drive shaft. So I can hold that and let the drive shaft spin freely. I also had to cut that down because my overall windmill was just pretty small. Yeah, and you can notice here I didn't notice it while I was building the windmill, but my the blades aren't really well centered and that will probably lead to some problems when it comes to testing. I also used a lot of tape to try to keep everything really secure and so right now you can see I'm punching holes in the back side of the oatmeal carton and that is to put these chopsticks through so that I can kind of center see I made a grid and I did that so that I could kind of center the tube and the drive shaft in the middle of that oatmeal container. And then I pretty close to done here I got my cup and string attached to the drive shaft and you can see here it's working pretty well. So I had some high hopes for that. Alrighty, so here we're ready to do some testing. I was starting out with tin washers in my cup to see how well it would do. One of the things that my windmill struggled with was the tube straw. I was using around the drive shaft, kept sliding up into the hub. Or I guess the force of the wind pushed it back into it. And so it was having some trouble spinning when that tube strong went into my hub. So I was having to shimmy it around a little bit to make sure it kept spinning. And then you always kind of got to work to find the right spot in the wind to make sure your windmill is catching the right amount of wind. And there I was trying 15 washers and it didn't quite do it as well. So I think I'm moving down to 12 here. Let's see how well it does. Yeah, that's where it was. It was spinning, but the straw was caught in the hub so the cup wasn't winding up. So you can see when I shake it around, it loosens it up and then that cup starts to wind up. And it gets to the top. All right, so here I am about to test out my oatmeal container windmill. And as you can see, it had some trouble spinning. I look like it was going to start, but then just kind of got stuck and we ultimately kind of decided it's most likely in the blades because everything else really did seem to be working fairly well. Alrighty, so we just finished making some adjustments to our windmills. I didn't change too many things. I was pretty satisfied with the way mine turned out. I did add a little bit of string up here on the drive shaft right up here. So it would keep my tube straw from riding into the hub. It was doing that earlier and it was kind of slowing down. My windmill from spinning and then that kept my string from winding up and lifting up the washers. So I just cut a little bit of string and wrapped it around that drive shaft and then taped it on there. So hopefully that will keep the tube strong place and I'll get a few more washers lifted. All right. Well, I wasn't really happy with how mine turned out. It didn't really spin it all. And so we kind of went back to the drawing board, made a lot of changes to the windmill, primarily to the blades. Kurt helped me with this and we probably spent at least an hour hummus, if not more. And so we're not going to show you all of that. But as I said, the blades were the main change, and you can see they are totally different from what they were before. The construction paper just really wasn't quite heavy enough. We tried adding actually more blades with instruction paper. We tried going through and just making sure that all of the blades were at the same angle or pitch and just really couldn't get the windmill to turn very much at all. And so Kurt had the idea to use cardboard since it was kind of its different material. And so that's what we did and we decided to, hey, let's just go big. And we switched out the pencils for painter stir sticks. I'll go ahead and turn this around so I can kind of show it to that and show you this. I actually used to reuse the pencils. We hot glue those all to one side of the painter's stir stick. And then we were able to put the cardboard on top of that and it created enough kind of dimension so that the depth so that the blades are all sitting at the same angle or saint pitched. So I'm hoping that's going to help. And then also use chopsticks to center the drive shaft and the tube that's holding the drive shift shaft in the middle of the oatmeal container. And so with all of those changes, I'm feeling pretty good and I'm hoping that we're going to be able to lift several washers. Okay, so here's our retesting after we made some adjustments. I still wasn't very happy with the performance of mine, the straw was still causing some problems with the hub. And it still kind of struggled to lift 15 washers. Yeah, my mind, you could see it changed quite a bit from the initial design. I successfully lifted 20 washers, and so I jumped to see if it would lift 50 watts, which is the most that we had on hand. The larger windmill, which allowed it to capture more wind, and then also just making sure that all of them, the blades are at the same pitch or angle really helped. Yeah, I think if I went back and redid this, I would make my windmill overall a little bit bigger with some larger blades so I could capture more wind and generate a little more power to lift a few more washers. Yeah, and I think I would probably want to try changing some of the issues that I had with the drive shaft a little bit, but overall I was really pleased with how it turned out. All right, now it's time for you to build your own Macgyver windmill. It does not need to look like the ones we've shown here. In fact, we would encourage you to try something entirely different. Ours were handheld, but maybe you want yours to stand on its own. Or maybe you have a totally new way to design the blades. Either way, we'd love it if you tag us on Facebook or Twitter with any photos or videos of your Macgyver windmill. Make sure to check out the description below this video for more information.