In this project, capture the power of water using a device that has been around for centuries: a water wheel. Water wheels were used to grind grain, saw wood, and pump water.

What You Need:

  • Corrugated cardboard or foam board (can be purchased at a store like Wal-Mart)
  • Flat top push pins, finishing nails, sewing pins or a hot glue gun
  • Pen or pencil
  • Wooden skewer (found in the kitchen section of a store like Wal-Mart)
  • Protractor or six inch diameter round object to trace
  • Scissors or box cutter
  • Ruler
  • String
  • Tiny bucket (like an egg carton section used to hold an egg)

(To just see the general principal of a water wheel at work with a one time experiment, you can use cardboard and white glue. If you would like your water wheel to last under numerous experiments in the water, go for the more water proof option by using foam board and pins. Hot glue is waterproof and can be used in place of the pins if making the foam board water wheel.)

What You Do:

  1. Down one short side of the foam board or cardboard, make a straight line two inches from the edge of the foam board. Divide this section into ten 1.5 inch segments.  These will be your paddles. Using the protractor, trace out two circles on the foam board, marking the center of the circle using your protractor. This is where your axle will connect the two halves of your water wheel. (The axle is the shaft that the wheel rotates on.)
  2. To make the stand for your water wheel, you may consider tracing this pattern.  Just click on the link to download and print it. The size of this pattern works best for a water wheel with a 6 inch diameter (the size made with a 6 inch long protractor). Cut out the pattern along the solid black lines, NOT along the dotted lines. Trace two of the legs on the foam board, and two of the support beams. (The support beam is the rectangle.)
  3. Cut out the water wheel pieces from the foam board or cardboard with scissors or a box cutter. Have an adult help you!
  4. On one of the halves of the water wheel, use the protractor to mark the placement of the paddles at about 40 ° intervals. Angle the paddles toward the center of the wheel like the spokes of a bicycle. Use glue or pins to attach the short end of the paddles so that they line up on the markings on the wheel. Attach the other half of the water wheel to the paddles. Carefully insert the skewer through the centers of the wheels. Set the water wheel aside.
  5. To make the stand for the water wheel, take one leg and use pins or glue to attach the support beams to the leg at the dotted lines. Take the other leg and attach it to the support beams opposite of the first leg. To increase support for your stand, you can attach the optional base to the bottom of the stand.
  6. Place the water wheel on the stand, with the axle (skewer) resting in the grooves at the top of the stand.
  7. Place your water wheel in the kitchen sink. Open the faucet so that a small amount of water runs out and spins the wheel. Experiment with the placement of the wheel under the stream of water and the amount of water coming out to see what works best.
  8. Watch your water wheel at work by attaching a bucket to the axle.  Punch holes into the top of the egg carton section with a skewer so that a piece of string can be looped through to make a handle. Attach a larger piece of string from the handle of the bucket to the axel of the water wheel. Experiment with how much weight can be lifted in the bucket using the power of water.