Steve Cogger, instructor at Doherty Middle School, Andover, MA, has his students design and test wind turbines. The goal of the project is to optimize the design of turbine blades to generate the highest output power. Using NI LabVIEW software with the Vernier SensorDAQ interface, he wrote a simple LabVIEW program to measure voltage and current from Vernier sensors. In addition, the LabVIEW program computes the output power, and provides results in colored steps—feedback that the students grasp better than digital readings from hand-held meters. The project uses a wind turbine kit that allows the students to easily attach different turbine blades. A room fan provides the wind source.
The project engages students in the design process as they prototype, test, and make measurements. Through this process, they explore and discover the many variables of blade design, allowing them to modify their design and repeat the process. The students also learn about the issues related to fossil fuels, alternative energy, and wind farms.