CM . . .
. Volume XVII Number 27. . . .March 18, 2011
Wind Power: 20 Projects to Make with Paper.
Richmond Hill, ON: Firefly, 2010.
96 pp., pbk., $12.95.
Wind power-Juvenile literature.
Science projects-Juvenile literature.
Paper work-Juvenile literature.
Grades 5 and up / Ages 10 and up.
Review by Barbara McMillan.
The real hands on experience you gain in trying out different materials, shapes and sizes will be the best teacher you could ever have. And the more you learn about wind power, the more you will believe that some day you might use it in your daily life.
In the spring of 2010, two colleagues and I developed a half-day workshop that introduced Grade 6 students to the difference between renewable and non-renewable forms of energy. We invited each student to design, make, and test blades for a model wind generator, and we encouraged the students to modify their blades after each test so that the energy produced increased. Regardless of the size or location of the schools in which we conducted the workshop, the students were always attentive, busy, and engaged. At the time, we imagined how much richer the experience for these students would have been if their testing of different materials for different numbers, sizes, and shapes of blades had continued over several days. I now wonder, having been asked to review Wind Power, what the information in Clive Dobson's book might have contributed to the students' thinking about windmills and wind generators and their designs. I suspect that we would have seen many more 2- to 12-blade pinwheels and examples of the square horizontal axis wind turbines, the sunflower turbine, and one or two vertical axis turbines. In the hands of an interested teacher, the development, testing, modifications, and re-testing could have continued for weeks.
Dobson begins Wind Power with information that is necessary for understanding the reasons air moves across Earth's surfaces. He also helps readers to determine wind direction using a wind vane and presents the Beauport Scale that has been in use since 1805 to measure the force of the wind and its speed. This is followed by an interesting, well-illustrated, 10-page section titled, "A Short History of Wind Power." Readers learn that the first windmills were likely inspired by square-sail ships that were used to transport people and goods by water as early as 2000 B.C. Dobson suggests that square-sailed windmills first appeared in Persia and Afghanistan around A.D. 700. Unlike the large wind turbines today, these windmills turned on a vertical axis with horizontal spokes from which wooden slats or rectangular sails of animal hides or woven fabric were supported. He suggests that the wind power was used to grind grain in regions where there was little flowing water available to operate a water mill. The changes in windmill design that followed led to the fixed mills on the Cyclades Islands, the post mills with latticed wings in northern Africa and Europe (e.g., the Netherlands and Belgium), the wind pump on North American farms and ranches, and a number of precursors to the more aerodynamic two- and three-blade electricity generating turbines more common today.
Before introducing the 20 designs and the materials and tools that one would need to create each design as a finished prototype, Dobson introduces ideas from the physical sciences, such as angle of attack, streamlining, lift, drag, Bernoulli's Principle, Betz's Law, and turbulence that come into play when creating windmills with sails or turbine blades. He also informs readers of the pros and cons to vertical axis wind turbines (VAWT) and the more common horizontal axis wind turbine (HAWT). Although the HAWT produces more power than the VAWT and requires no guy wires for support, it is nosier, and the huge components are difficult and costly to transport. In his introduction, Dobson suggests that the proliferation of farms of "giant industrial wind turbines" may "become the next generation of eyesores." This is one of the reasons he has written Wind Power—"to help further an interest in the development of small wind devices" for individual household use.
The 55 pages before the glossary, list of relevant resources (books and websites), and index are given over to directions for building 13 horizontal axis wind turbines and seven vertical axis wind turbines. Dobson has also included directions for three experimental windmills that allow those who attempt to make X Windmill A, X Windmill B, and X Windmill C to gain an understanding of the problems faced by engineers who design the large-scale wind turbines. These pages are beautifully designed with photographic illustrations of the completed paper prototype, diagrams for drawing and cutting, and step-by-step procedures. Grade 5 students may find some directions more difficult than others, owing to the use of a compass and the precision that is necessary for measuring, cutting and folding. Dobson, however, is convinced that they "should be able to follow the simple instructions and master the basic geometry on their own." It's certainly worth trying, particularly if it leads, as Dobson hopes, to pursuing a more sustainable lifestyle.
Barbara McMillan is a teacher educator and a professor of science education in the Faculty of Education, the University of Manitoba.
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