STEAM Saturday – Paper Cup Windmills! (5/11/2024)

Paper Windmill Project Little Bins for Little Hands

It seems that, over the past few years, windy days are more frequent, and the wind is stronger than in the past.  Did you know that the wind’s energy can be harnessed to create electricity?  This is done through the use of windmills.  This week for STEAM Saturday, you and your future engineer can learn more about wind power while making your own windmill out of paper cups!

First, let’s talk about how windmills work.  Of course, when you think of windmills, the first thing your mind conjures up is the large, rotating blades.  These are shaped specifically to capture as much wind as possible.  When the wind blows, it causes the blades to spin.  The motion of the blades is transferred to a generator inside the windmill, which converts the energy of the spinning blades (also know as mechanical energy) into electrical energy.  Isn’t science amazing?!

Now that we know how they work, let’s build our own windmill!  Many of the supplies needed for this project may already be laying around your house.  Here’s what you’ll need:

  • Two small paper cups
  • A Bendable Straw
  • A Toothpick
  • Scissors
  • 4 Pennies
  • Tape

Now that you have all of your supplies together, it’s time to put on your engineering caps and start building.  First, draw a dot in the center of the bottom of each paper cup.  Next, use your toothpick to poke a hole in the center of the cup where the dot was drawn.  Then expand the size of one of the holes until it is big enough to place your bendable straw inside.  Now, weigh down the cup holding the straw by taping your pennies to the inside of the cup, making sure that the pennies are evenly distributed around the cup.

Finished Paper WindmillUsing your scissors, cut several slits around the top of the other (non-weighted) cup.  Create eight evenly-spaced slits cut approximately halfway down the length of the cup.  Fold the resulting flaps outward to create the blades for your windmill.  Place your toothpick in the hole at the bottom of this cup, sticking outward, and put the protruding end of the toothpick into the opening of the bendable straw.

Now it’s time to see if your windmill works.  Blow on the blades and watch them spin!  You have built your very own windmill!

Check out the full activity and more of the science behind windmills from Little Bins for Little Hands HERE.

As always, get as creative as you want, and above all, have lots of fun learning together!

We’ll see you right back here next Saturday for another STEAM Saturday activity!  Scroll through the rest of our website to learn how Critchlow Adkins is Building Brighter Futures for the children and families we serve!

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