Students of weather can build an anemometer to gauge the speed of the wind like real scientists. This kids science project is easy to do; requiring simple materials – three chopsticks, a tin can, Styrofoam cups, play dough or air drying clay, tape/glue, big marker, a punch.
Students will begin this kids science project by punching a hole in the bottom of the tin can (which will now become the top). Then, they affix one chopstick vertically in the opening, wrapping it above and below the can with something to thicken it so it won’t come out. This could be a ring of fast-drying clay or glue, or perhaps a few layers of tape. Note, the clay, glue, or tape belongs above and below the part that is actually going through the hole, allowing a gap so that the stick can spin smoothly. Make the ring wide enough so that the stick is very stable in a perfectly vertical position.
Now it is time to construct the sail part. Trim the pointed and flattened ends off of each of the other four chopsticks so that they are the same length and balanced. Attach them securely into a disk of clay so as to form a cross shape that is as perfectly horizontal as possible. With the vertical part of the anemometer, make a hole in the middle of the disk just slightly bigger than the diameter of the stick (to allow for easy spinning). Allow clay to harden.
Meanwhile, make another support ring a little ways up from the can on the vertical stick. This ring is what the clay disk will rest on, so make sure it’s top is perfectly smooth, flat, and level (one way to get it smooth is to form it first on a table). When the disk/cross and the ring are dry, slip the disk onto the vertical stick and make another ring just above it. Allow all to dry.
Now, get out four Styrofoam cups. Carefully measure a place the same distance up from the bottom of each of them. Mark it and then poke the cups onto the sticks at those marks and secure with a dab of glue at each puncture. With a big permanent marker, make a big, dark mark on the side of one cup.
Now your kids science project anemometer is almost ready to use! You need only to calculate your formula for the wind speed. To do so, all you need to know is the circumference of the circle that the cups are spinning in and the number of revolutions per minute. Measure the diameter of the anemometer in meters. Multiply by pi to get the circumference in meters (convert any fraction to a decimal). Carefully watch the anemometer spinning for one minute and count the number of times you see the marked cup pass by. Multiply this number by the circumference of the circle to get the wind speed (measured in meters / minute). Convert to miles / hour if desired.
Ask students questions about this kids science project to get them thinking like scientists. What does it mean when the wind is blowing faster or slower? Changing directions? What sort of weather usually follows? Does it matter what time of day the wind is blowing?
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