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Build a Water Wheel: Flinn STEM Design Challenge™

By: The Flinn Staff

In the Build a Water Wheel—Flinn STEM Design Challenge™ Kit, learn about water power and actively engage in science and engineering practices. Build an eight bucket water wheel With the provided materials.

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Hydropower has been used to do work for thousands of years. Water wheels transfer the energy of flowing water to mechanical energy to press, grind, crush, lift and saw. Students have fun while building water wheels and determining how much power the wheel can generate! In the first part of this activity, students build an eight-bucket water wheel, choosing from the materials provided. Each group then tests its wheel, collecting data and making observations as the wheel turns and lifts a load. Next, students brainstorm and decide how to make improvements to their design. Variables, such as the size, shape and number of buckets, are considered. The improved water wheels are given a final test to determine maximum power generated. A unique testing-station setup eliminates the need for hot glue and allows for easy modification of the water wheels. As students learn about water power, they actively engage in science and engineering practices!

Complete for 30 students working in groups of three and two testing stations. A source of running or falling water is required for each testing station.

Correlation to Next Generation Science Standards (NGSS)

Science & Engineering Practices

Asking questions and defining problems
Developing and using models
Planning and carrying out investigations
Analyzing and interpreting data
Constructing explanations and designing solutions
Engaging in argument from evidence
Obtaining, evaluation, and communicating information

Disciplinary Core Ideas

MS-ETS1.A: Defining and Delimiting Engineering Problems
MS-ETS1.B: Developing Possible Solutions
MS-ETS1.C: Optimizing the Design Solution
HS-PS3.B: Conservation of Energy and Energy Transfer

Crosscutting Concepts

Cause and effect
Scale, proportion, and quantity
Systems and system models
Patterns
Structure and function

Performance Expectations

MS-ETS1-2. Evaluate competing design solutions using a systematic process to determine how well they meet the criteria and constraints of the problem.
MS-ETS1-4. Develop a model to generate data for iterative testing and modification of a proposed object, tool, or process such that an optimal design can be achieved.
HS-PS3-2. Develop and use models to illustrate that energy at the macroscopic scale can be accounted for as a combination of energy associated with the motion of particles (objects) and energy associated with the relative position of particles (objects).
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.