To get power from wind, you need enough wind speed—an average 14 miles (22.5km) per hour. At this constant speed, wind energy pushes a turbine's blades around, spinning a generator to make electricity.

Scientists, sailors and others who count on the wind measure its speed with an anemometer. Make and test a model anemometer and record wind speed in revolutions per minute. Enter your data online, and discover: Is the wind near you faster than anywhere else in the country? Slower? The same?

  • Scissors
  • 4 3-oz. paper cups
  • Marking pen (any color)
  • 2 strips of stiff, thick cardboard (both the same length)
  • Ruler
  • Stapler
  • Push pin
  • Sharpened pencil with eraser on the end
  • Modeling clay
  • Watch or clock that shows seconds
Step 3

Cut off the rolled edges of the cups.

Color the outside of just one cup.

Crisscross and staple the cardboard strips together in a plus (+) sign shape.

With the ruler and pencil, draw an X where the cardboard strips overlap. The center of the X will be the exact center of the plus sign.

Staple one cup to each of the four ends of the cardboard strips. Make sure all four cups face the same direction.

Push the pin through the center spot of the cardboard, then into the eraser end of the pencil. Blow on the cups to make sure the cardboard spins around freely.

On a windy day—

Place the clay on an outdoor surface (porch railing, fence rail, wall, or large rock). Stick the pencil point into the clay, so the pencil stands straight up.

Time one minute. During that time, count how many full spins the marked cup makes (revolutions per minute.) Try measuring wind speed at different times of day and in different locations. Record all your measurements.

Enter your fastest wind speed data online here, with your zip code. Then click on SUBMIT. How fast is the wind near you, compared to wind in other parts of the country?

What's your zipcode?

How many spins per minute did your anemometer make?

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