Elementary School Students Build Their Own Wind Generator

The kids at Coburg Elementary School decided reading about wind energy wasn't enough, so they built their own wind-powered generator.

| July/August 1976

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    The 500-watt WIN generator.

  • wind

About a year and a half ago—when 35 students at Coburg Elementary School outside Eugene, Oregon decided that they wanted to learn more about wind energy—they also decided that they wouldn't be satisfied with simply reading a book on the subject.

Instead, the group of 5th and 6th graders—along with their teacher, Gary Raze—chose to build a 33-foot-tall, 500-watt-output Savonius rotor . . . a rotor which is now used to run nine 50-watt light bulbs inside their classroom.

The inspiration for the class project came back in the winter of 1975 when Gerald Ford-as part of his "Whip Inflation Now" program—urged all Americans to become more energy conscious. "We wanted to find a way to help save electricity," 6th grade student Debbie Lueck explains. "So when Mr. Raze found an idea in THE MOTHER EARTH NEWS ® , Issue No. 26, for something called the Savonius rotor—and told us how it works—we all thought it'd be a great project for the class!"

Raze singled out the S-rotor design in particular because [1] such a windplant would—by virtue of its low speed of operation—require less precision in its construction and balancing than a conventional Stewart-type rotor, and [2] parts would be easy to find, meaning—in turn—that [3] the cost of the undertaking could be kept reasonably low.

The third point was vitally important, since—educational budgets being what they are these days—Raze knew the class could rely on no funding from the school district. Happily, businesses and parents around the Eugene area contributed nearly all the parts needed for the windplant . . . and the class was able—by making and selling hanging wooden candle holders after school—to raise enough money to purchase the few items that weren't donated.

Thus, it was possible for Gary Raze and his students to build their wind generator (or "WIN" generator, as the class likes to call it) over a three-month period at a cost of only $100!


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