Category: Recreation General

Water Wheel Project

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The Water Wheel Project is a do it yourself product designed for children ages nine and up to create their own water wheel. The project may require some parental help when dealing with the cutting of certain objects (i.e- spoons, Styrofoam wheel) and also the use of a hot glue gun. In this project, users create a functional water wheel. When finished, the blades/buckets of the wheel must be created in a manner so that they can catch the water and create movement. The water wheel must have an axle that is able to rotate/move to generate energy. The axle is usually attached to another system to harness the energy created. Even though water wheels are not commonly used today, because it was a simple, easily constructed machine, it helped build the foundations of harnessing water to generate movement or energy. To create, follow the instructions below.

Technical Specifications: 

Step One: Gather materials.

  • 8-10 plastic spoons
  • 1 Styrofoam disk or a dry foam disk (Click here for an example)
  • 2 plastic plates
  • 1 Dowel rod or wooden skewer
  • 1 medium-sized bucket
  • Scissors
  • Ruler
  • Marker
  • Safety glasses/goggles
    • Optional Component of Project
      • 12-inch string
      • Tape
      • Paper clip

Step Two: First, prepare the Styrofoam or dry foam disk to be the center of the water wheel. To do this, cut the foam to be about the same width as the spoons. Users are also going to need to make sure the disk is smaller than the plastic plates.  If the Styrofoam/foam disk is already the correct width and size, feel free to skip this step. Note: Children may need help from an adult when cutting the disk.

Step Three: Next, prepare the 8-10 plastic spoons to become the buckets/paddles that move the axle. Cut each spoon so that it can be placed inside the foam. Try to cut each spoon about the same size.

Step Four: Push the spoons into the foam disk. Make sure all of the spoons are facing the same direction and are evenly spaced around the disk.  Use the picture below as a reference. Note: If the spoons are not staying firmly in the disk, hot glue them in place. Children may need help from an adult to hot glue the spoons.

Step Five: The next step is to make holes for the dowel rod/wooden skewer to go through the discs so the wheel can spin.  Find the center of the 2 plastic plates and the foam disk. Use a ruler and marker to draw lines connecting the center of the plate. See the picture below.

Step Six: After the user finds the centers of each object, carefully cut a small hole in each of the items. The hole must be large enough for the dowel rod to go through easily, but small enough so that it fits snuggly. Note: Children may need adult help cutting the holes into the plates and foam disk.

Step Seven: Before the user puts the dowel rod into the water wheel, secure all of the working parts. With a hot glue gun, hot glue the plates to the sides of the foam disk. Make sure the holes align so that in the next step, the user can insert the axle. Make sure that the plates are completely dry before proceeding to the next step. Note: Parental help may be needed with this step due to the use of a hot glue gun.

Step Eight: In this step, place the dowel rod or skewer through the center of the wheel.  When the rod is in place, make sure it fits snuggly.

Step Nine: Now, the user is ready to test out the water wheel. Place the wheel in a bucket or sink where one can access water. Slowly turn on the water and watch the wheel spin. Note: the dowel rod needs to be placed so that it can be free standing and not fall over when the water is turned on. If the sink is too large, use a suitable bucket. 

Step Ten (Optional): If the user would like to better understand how a water wheel creates and transfers energy, tie and tape a piece of string to the end of the axle, and then attach a paper clip to the other end. When the water moves the wheel, it will begin to spin the yarn and paperclip towards the top of the bucket or top of the sink. Most water wheels were used to power a separate system. (In this extension, the water wheel was used to pull up / move a paper clip). See how the string wraps around the dowel rod and the paper clip moves towards the top of the bucket.


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Water Wheel Project