Tuesday, September 15, 2009

DIY Energy session at Newick School

On 27 March 2009 we ran an all-day session with a Year 4 class at Newick Primary School in Sussex, UK. In the morning session, students built and tested wind turbines in our DIY Energy activity. In the afternoon students created photo-stories about how they constructed their wind turbines. The activities were augmented with teacher-created resources including a Powerpoint presentation and worksheet shown below:

We documented the day, collecting the following data:

  • 10 digital comic files

  • 4 videos from mobile phone

  • 13 photos from mobile phone of windmills and worksheets

  • 6 audio clips

  • 1 video

  • 'Making my windmill' folder of photos used by students in photostories

  • Template for photostories

The teacher integrated the activities into the current science topic of sustainable energy, and began the session with a discussion about solar panels, tidal turbines, and wind turbines.

During the introduction to the wind turbine construction activity, the teacher showed slides of turbines created by other students, and gave a demonstration of how to create a simple fan. The following was projected on the digital whiteboard:

As students constructed their turbines in pairs, the teacher took photographs which were then downloaded and made available on the network for use in the afternoon session making photo stories. Here are a few:

One pair decided to have two sets of blades going different directions:

Yeah but I was thinking we make one of those um, one of them. The orange one. And then um, put it on behind, or on top. So we've got two really good engines running, two disks running at the same time. That's a good idea isn't it?


We have a 2 wheel one. One's gonna go one way, the other's gonna go a different way. Double the power... Double the power, the more energy you get from the wind.


Student 1: I think we should start decorating. Should we just do this one?

Student 2: No, we need double the power.... If one of them falls off, we've still got one blowing

S1: Yeah, well the thing is, it's not really gonna get a lot of wind on the back of that is it

Some completed wind turbines:

In the afternoon there were network problems so the teacher suggested students use the built-in Microsoft paint program to draw pictures of their windmills. Students clearly had good basic skills in using office and simple graphics programs as well as the PC interface. A good deal of time was spend copying images from the teachers laptop to a students using USB sticks. Finally, with the LAN came back to life the remaining students were able to access the images, but only very slowly, and when they tried to save their work it often failed.

Each turbine was tested in front of the class and a “score” (energy generated) read from an ammeter. Here is the testing apparatus we provided:

Normal table fan used for testing:

More images were taken and a class winner was announced. A final photo of the entire class outside with their turbines was taken before documentation using ComicLife began.

One student said, 'I like it because with the windmill pictures I actually managed to fill the boxes with pictures of me!'

Students again presented their comics during a plenary session toward the end of the workshop and again there was much applause.

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