Designing a Wind Turbine (Part 1)

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SWBAT explain why designing a wind turbine is an important design problem.

Big Idea

Design matters. To create authenticity in engineering, students work to explain why it is important to design a wind turbine blade.


2 minutes

This is Part 1 of a four part lesson. The lessons are divided by the engineering standard and by the strategies I use to teach the standards.  In Part 1, my strategy is student-led learning as the students determine the design problem they want to solve.

In the Design Problem Rationale section, students explain why designing a wind turbine blade is an important design problem.  My strategy is to authentically incorporate Common Core standards. I always conduct a discussion in this step but I may skip the Common Core integration when I am pressed for time. For example, I'll ask the student to use the statistics already recorded in their engineering notebooks but I may not demand a formal writing piece or a citation. 

The strategy I use in Communicate Design Problem is write to learn. Because I may not have asked students for textual evidence, the writing will be necessarily different.  If you are looking for a Common Core integration into the design process, you can also do just Part 1 of this lesson. 

The steps of the design process are going to be used as students gather data, draw ideas, build the wind turbine blades and then test their designs. Refer to my lessons, I Have to Teach Engineering? and Dream Invention

Design Problem

10 minutes

To begin the lesson I like to start with a strategy of Student Led Design. I want the students to decide what we are going to design. I have a bulletin board of World Problems. I ask them to consider the problems they came up and decide what we should design to help make the world a better place.  I ask my students, “If you could help solve a world problem, what would you try to solve?  (See my lesson: Science, Technology, Engineering and Math Integration). 


When students explain they want to help the environment, I suggest they design a wind turbine blade. 

Design Problem Rationale

60 minutes

The science idea I want students to embrace is that engineers help make the world a better place through design. My intention is to give students an authentic engineering experience. 

My first strategy is Digging Deeper in Science Concepts. The resource my students use is their science notebook. I ask, “Why is designing a wind turbine blade an important design problem?” Students explain, “We need to use more wind power.” I ask, “Why?” They mention renewable energy sources or climate change. I ask, “How can a wind turbine design help?”

My students know that wind turbines generate energy, they may not remember but I have them in my earlier lessons. Using their notebooks, students review the Law of Conservation of Energy Lesson. I bring out my generator.  I then ask, “What do we use in Illinois to create electricity?" I encourage students to go back to the notebooks and review their work in the lesson called,  How Do Our Homes get Energy?  Students explain “Coal and Nuclear Energy.”

My students have been taught my Climate Change lesson and the students have background knowledge that helps them understand the real world urgency. I have several lessons to support the learning of my students as they go through the engineering process.  

My strategy is using former lessons to answer the question, "Why is this an important design problem?" I say, "We need to learn more about why this is an important design problem by determining how the resources we use in Illinois call for a renewable energy source." To help students understand the role of coal in our economy and the impact of burning coal on the environment, I teach my Exploring Coal and Science Literacy: Coal lessons. These lessons help student understand why this is an important design problem.  I also teach my Exploring Nuclear Energy and Science Literacy: Nuclear Energy. My intention is to help student understand how the human consumption of resources impacts Earth's systems. In addition, I want the students to understand how the uneven distribution of Earth's resources impacts past and current geoscience processes.  These lessons promote a strategy of supporting Common Core Literacy Standards in an authentic manner. Take a look at the movie and see how my students used facts from past lessons to explain why designing a wind turbine blade is an important design problem. 

Communicate Design Problem

45 minutes

My next strategy is Write to Learn. I ask students to write a 5-7 sentence summary explaining why designing a wind turbine is an important design problem. They are required to use any source from previous lessons to explain why this is an important problem to solve. The examples in the Student Samples show how my students write the paragraph. They use MLA format and must include a quote with a bibliography. We use the Google Add-on Easy Bib to make the creation of a bibliography painless. 

Go on to Wind Turbine Design Part 2.