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Paleontological Research Institution, Ingrid Zabel


3rd, 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, 10th, 11th, 12th


Science, Physics, Earth and Space Sciences, Engineering

Regional Focus



YouTube Video

Build a Wind-Powered Machine

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  • This video provides a demonstration of how to build a simple wind-powered machine using a cup, pencil, string, tape, and piece of paper.
  • Students will learn that the wind has been used for hundreds of years to power machines and that it continues to be a valuable source of clean energy today. 
Teaching Tips


  • This video introduces a fun, hands-on format for learning about wind energy that allows for student and teacher creativity.

Additional Prerequisites

  • This resource provides the written directions for this activity, which can be downloaded or printed
  • A canned food item or paper cup can be used instead of a plastic cup and a rolled-up piece of paper will likely work better than a straw, as it is adjustable and it doesn't contribute to plastic pollution.


  • Cross-curricular connections could be made with art classes, as students can add their own unique designs, colors, or artwork to the elevators and windmills.
  • This video could be used as an introduction to an in-class project or could be watched in class and then assigned as an at-home project. 
  • Related assignments might include asking students to provide a written or oral summary of the steps of this project after watching, drawing a diagram of the project to demonstrate understanding, or responding to written prompts about the value of wind energy after watching the video. 
  • Other resources about renewable energy include this online course, this e-book by the Climate Reality Project, and this video by LabXchange.
Scientist Notes
This 6-minute video presents an at-home or in-class activity in which you build a wind-powered machine that converts wind power (from your lungs) into mechanical lifting power. The necessary material and steps are clearly presented. This resource is recommended for teaching.
  • Science and Engineering
    • ESS3: Earth and Human Activity
      • HS-ESS3-4 Evaluate or refine a technological solution that reduces impacts of human activities on natural systems.
    • ETS1: Engineering Design
      • 3-5-ETS1-1 Define a simple design problem reflecting a need or a want that includes specified criteria for success and constraints on materials, time, or cost.
    • PS3: Energy
      • HS-PS3-3 Design, build, and refine a device that works within given constraints to convert one form of energy into another form of energy.
  • English Language Arts
    • Speaking and Listening (K-12)
      • SL.6-8.2 Integrate and evaluate information presented in diverse media and formats, including point of view, reasoning, and use of evidence and rhetoric.
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