The Windmills of Their Minds

by Michael Porter
The Kindergarten students have been learning about air and wind — and now it's time to be designers and engineers to harness and use its power!
Previously in Science Lab, students designed and tested sails, which they mounted to small boats, to see what size and shape works the best.
With this knowledge, the students paired with new partners and set out to design the sails that will catch the wind and make a windmill turn.
The young engineers first needed to determine the size and shape of the sails, and how many of them they would install around the hub.
Their goal was to create a system that would catch enough wind to spin and also to do work. In a traditional early windmill, the mechanism was used to pump water or grind grain.

Science Specialist Deb Landon gave the students a blank sheet of paper. They had to then design from scratch, with no templates to follow.
"It's a chance for them to really do their own thing without someone coming in and saying 'I will do that for you,'" said Ms. Landon.
The students in each group had the opportunity to apply their knowledge from making the sailboats into designing the best possible size and shape for collecting wind for the windmill.

After cutting out their sails and installing them on a hub, Ms. Landon attached them to her test windmill to see if their prototypes would actually catch the wind from the fan and spin. On the back of the windmill, there is a take-up string attached to a cup. As the windmill spins, the string should wrap around the axle and pull the cup up from the table.
Not every one of the first renditions will actually function...but Ms. Landon assures the students that engineers learn from mediocre results or outright failure.
"It's important at the earliest age to develop an understanding that potential failure is OK and helps you learn," said Ms. Landon. "It's part of the process. It's life!"
For the final tests, the students will place weights in the cup to test how much work each windmill design accomplishes.