Jan. 7, 2004
Daniel Steck, 14, San Antonio, Texas
TLC "Hot Rod" Award, Discovery Channel Young Scientists Challenge, 2003
Project background: While driving through western Texas to visit his grandparents, Daniel observed many windmill farms and noticed that the windmills had only three blades. He wondered if a different number of blades or blades at a different angle would be more effective in generating electricity.
Tactics and results: Daniel designed and built a tower for mounting a generator from a 1955 Chevrolet securely on top of a minivan. He scrounged five rotors from a salvage yard. A voltmeter measured the wind generator's electrical output. Daniels father drove the minivan at different speeds to produce different wind speeds. Twelve trials were performed with each of the five different rotors at 10 different wind speeds. Daniel used the 7-blade rotor to determine which blade angle (15, 30, or 45 degrees) would produce the most output. He used a 45-degree blade angle to determine the optimum number of blades (3, 5, or 7).
Daniel found that the 3-blade rotor produced a higher voltage than the 7-blade rotor and the 15-degree rotor produced a higher voltage than the 45-degree rotor. Also, an increased wind velocity did increase the voltage output. Further, he found that the angle of the blade caused a more significant change in voltage output than did a change in the number of blades used.
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