Lean Thinking Helps STEM Kids Build a Tiny Windfarm

When we see a new build by [Gord] from Gord’s Garage, we never know what to expect. He seems to be pretty skilled at whatever he puts his hand to, with a great design sense and impeccable craftsmanship. You might expect him to tone it down a little for a STEM-outreach wind turbine project then, but when you get a chance to impress 28 fifth and sixth graders, you might as well go for it.

98j6zpStarting with an idea from his daughter’s teacher for wind turbines each kid could make, [Gord] applied a little lean methodology so the kids would be able to complete the build in the allotted time. The design is simple – a couple of old CDs holding vertical sections of PVC tubing to catch the breeze and spin neodymium magnets over four flat coils of magnet wire. It’s enough to light a single LED and perhaps a kid’s imagination.

As simple as the turbine is, the process of building it needed to be stripped of as much unnecessary work as possible, and [Gord] really shines here. He built jigs and fixtures galore, pre-built some assemblies, and set up well-organized workstations for each step of the build. Everything was clearly labeled, adult volunteers were trained using the video after the break, and a good time was had by all.

Sometimes the hack isn’t in the product but in the process, and [Gord] managed to hack a success out a potential disaster of disappointed kids. If getting a taste of [Gord]’s style makes you want to see more, check out his guitar fretting jig or his brake rotor mancave clock.

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Daisy Kite Wind Turbine: Now You Can Buy One

The Isle of Lewis is the largest of the Scottish Outer Hebrides, sitting in the North Atlantic off the west coast of the Scottish mainland. It is the first landfall after thousands of miles of ocean for a continuous stream of Atlantic weather systems, so as you might imagine it is a place in which there is no shortage of wind.

It is thus the perfect situation for a wind power startup, and in the aptly-named Windswept and Interesting Ltd it has one that is pushing the boundaries. Their speciality is the generation of power from spinning kites, arrays of kites that transmit power to a ground-based generator through the rotation of their lines, and because they release their designs as open source they are of extra interest to us.

Of course, if you are a seasoned reader you’ll now be complaining that we’ve covered this story before when they had an entry in the 2014 Hackaday Prize, so what’s new? The answer is that the 2014 story was a much earlier iteration than their current multi-level kite array, and that they have now reached the point of bringing their products to market. You can buy one of their prototypes right now, and there is a soon-to-be-launched crowdfunding campaign for their latest model. It’s not exactly cheap, but this first product is the result of 5 years of product development, and it is pretty obvious that more is on the way. For any open hardware startup to stay afloat that long is an impressive achievement, to do so in a field in which you are not surrounded by a huge supporting industry in the way for example electronics startups are is nothing short of amazing.

If you would like to have a go at building one of their spinning kites, you can do so with full instructions released under a Creative Commons licence, but for non kite builders their website is a fascinating read in its own right. Their YouTube channel  in particular has a wealth of videos of previous tests as well as design iterations, and is one on which many readers will linger for a while. Below the break we’ve put one of their most recent, a montage showing the kite evolution over the years.

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Juice-Spewing Wind Turbine Bootstrapped from Bike Parts

Wind Turbines are great, they let us humans harness the energy of the wind. Wind is free and that is good, but spending a ton of money on a wind turbine setup begins to make the idea less appealing. [Ted] has spent many years building low cost wind turbines and this one is not only simple but can be made from mostly found parts.

It’s easy to identify the main rotor hub and blade frame which are made from an old bicycle wheel. The blades are standard aluminum flashing normally used in home construction and are attached directly to the spokes of the bike wheel. Mounted below the bike rim is a permanent magnet motor that acts as a generator. A belt couples the motor to the main rotor and uses the tire-less rim as a pulley.

[Ted] has strapped this beast to the roof of his car to measure how it performs. At 12 mph, he’s getting between 18-20 volts at 2 amps. Not too bad! Bikes and bike parts are cheap (or free) and there is no surprise that they have been used in wind turbine projects before, like this one that hangs from a kite.

3D Printed Wind Turbine Uses Bamboo

Using wood and aluminum for wind turbines is one thing, but how about 3D printing the blades and using bamboo to hold them together?

[Jeff Heidbrier] of Hero Electronics decided to try something new. He designed his own wind turbine to use cheap and readily available bamboo, with 3D printed parts. It’s a vertical axis wind turbine, unlike the typical wind mills you see generating power. The blades were printed on a Thing-O-Matic (nice to see they still exist in the wild!), and the turbine blades are about a foot long.

To make sure everything was level, he used a laser level to ensure his bearing system worked well. All in all, it looks pretty sturdy, but who knows how it will hold up to mother nature. Unfortunately there’s no clip of it actually being used outside, but I guess that just means we’ll have to wait for part 2.

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Extrinsic Motivation: Daisy Kite Airborne Wind Turbine

Got another THP entry for ya’ll that didn’t quite make the cut, but is worth sharing. This time we are featuring an airborne wind turbine that, as the project description states, ‘can harvest strong and expansive wind safely and efficiently.’

Ram air kites spin a parachute that in turn transfers torque that can be captured on the ground. In a true hacker spirit way, the rig developed by [Rod] utilizes bike wheels and rollerblade wheels in the design. This homemade generator needs a lot of space to be deployed, but it looks like a nice solution to airborne energy harvesting. [Rod] goes over the specifications for the project throughout the build logs on the Hackaday.io page and includes a couple of video describing how it was created and showing what happens when it is released into the air currents outside. Diagrams and models of the open source airborne wind energy generation device are also included.

Below are a few of his videos. Watch them over, and let us know what you think.

SpaceWrencherThis project is an official entry to The Hackaday Prize that sadly didn’t make the quarterfinal selection. It’s still a great project, and worthy of a Hackaday post on its own.
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7-Foot DIY Wind Turbine Proves Size Matters


When [brokengun] decided to build a 7 ft diameter wind turbine, he had no idea how to even start, so he did as most of us would do and read some books on the topic. His design criteria was that it would be simple to construct and use as many recycled parts as possible. This wind turbine charges a 12 volt battery which can then be used to power a variety of gadgets.

Although made from recycled components, this isn’t a thrown together wind turbine. A lot of thought went into the design and build. [brokengun] discusses matching the blade size to that of the generator in order to maximize power and efficiency.  The design also incorporates a feature that will turn the turbine perpendicular to the wind if the wind-speed gets to high. Doing this prevents the turbine from being damaged by strong gusts.

For the main support/hub assembly, a Volvo 340 strut was used because they are widely available, cheap and known for being long-lasting. The tail boom is made from electrical conduit and it’s length is determined by the size of the main fan rotor. The tail vane is made from steel sheet metal and its surface area is also dependent on the fan rotor size to ensure that the turbine functions properly. The blades are made from wood but instead of making them himself, [brokengun] felt these were worth ponying up some cash. [brokengun] also scored a 30 ft high lattice tower an airport was getting rid of. This worked out great as it’s just the right height for a turbine of this size.

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Windmill made from washing machine, 555 chip

Green hacks implement one of two philosophies. The first is über-technical, with very expensive, high-quality components. The other side of this coin creates green power out of junk. [Timot] obviously took the latter choice, building a windmill out of an old washing machine motor and a few bits of PVC.

The generator for the windmill is based on a Fisher and Paykel direct drive usually found in clothes washing machines, rewired to provide 12 Volts at low RPM. At high speeds, the generator can produce 80 Volts, so a charge controller – even one based on a 555 chip – was an excellent addition.

For the other miscellaneous mechanical parts of the build, [Timot] cut the blades of the windmill out of 200 mm PVC pipe and sanded them down a bit for a better aerodynamic profile. With a custom fiberglass spinner, [Timot] whipped up a very attractive power station that is able to provide about 20 watts in normal conditions and 600 watts when it’s very windy. Not enough to power a house by any means, but more than enough to charge a cellphone or run a laptop for a few hours out in the back country.