Lesson – Wind Energy: Making and Testing Pinwheels to Lift a Load



Title: Wind Energy – Making & Testing Pinwheels to Lift a Load
Grade: 5th Grade
Duration: 45 Minutes

In this lab, students learn will use the principles of engineering to make pinwheels and test them to observe the power of the wind.

Problem Statement

How can wind be converted to energy in order to lift a load?


Each group will need:

  • Large straw
  • Small straw (not bendable) or wooden skewer
  • String (cotton is best)
  • Large disposable cup (around 16 ounces)
  • Small disposable cup (around 6 ounces)
  • Scissors
  • Tape, paper clip, binder clip or rubber band
  • Pinwheel Template on cardstock
  • Fan or blow dryer (optional)
  • Pennies


Make sure to follow the following procedures. Watch closely in order to make observations about what occurs and document what happens.

  1. Use the attached pinwheel pattern, copy it onto cardstock.
  2. Use scissors to cut out the pinwheel.
  3. Use the small straw, wooden skewer, or hole puncher, to mark and poke a hole through the center of your square.
  4. Cut from the corners diagonally (on the lines) towards the center of the square (stop cutting where the line ends) stopping about 1.5” from the center point.
  5. Use the straw , skewer, or hole puncher, to poke a hole at the end of the four corners that have a small circle. The hole should be large enough for the small straw, or wooden skewer (whichever one was used) to fit into.
  6. Push the small straw, or wooden skewer through the center of your square and then bend (do not fold over) each of the corners toward the center straw, or skewer and put it through.
  7. Make sure to secure the front and back of the pinwheel with tape, a paperclip or rubber bands to keep the pinwheel together. There should be about an inch of space between the front and back of the pinwheel.
  8. Now, cut the large straw so that it is equal in length to the bottom of your large cup.
  9. Secure it to the bottom of the cup using tape.
  10. Slide the end of your small straw or wooden skewer through the large straw on your base. There should be about 1.5 inches of the small straw/skewer that extends past the base. You can trim the small straw/skewer if needed.
  11. Take the  small cup and punch two holes on opposite sides and tie a small piece of string between the two holes, to create a bucket handle.
  12. Now, secure one end of your string to the end of the small straw and tie the other end to the handle of the small cup..
  13. Place tape or a binder clip on the end of the small straw in order to keep the pieces together.
  14. You are not ready to test and observe the power of the wind!
  15. You can blow air toward you pinwheel using your mouth, blow dryer, or fan to simulate wind.
  16. Observe and reflect on what happens:
  • Did your pinwheel lift the small cup?
  • How long did it take?
  • Could it lift any paper clips or pennies?
  • How many paper clips and or pennies could be lifted?
  • What can you do to improve your design?

Pinwheel Template