Camp Hydro: Building a Wilderness Water Wheel

This project starts with a fantasy story. Imagine you're camping, out in the wilderness somewhere. Like anyone heading out into the woods to take a break from the hectic pace of our modern technological society, you've brought your cellphone with you. Unfortunately, you forgot that there are no power outlets in the wildnerness, and you don't have any way to charge your phone's battery. Fortunately, there's a stream near your campsite, and you have the supplies you'll need to build an improvised electric-generating water wheel! Maybe if you get it built quickly enough, you won't have to get down to the real business of enjoying nature.

The Project

What you're actually going to be doing, for this project, is designing the water wheel for a small hydroelectric generation system. Since the STEM Explorer isn't really in the middle of nowhere, you'll be doing this in a parametric CAD system called Onshape, and we'll be manufacturing your design with one of our 3D printers. When this is done, we'll test your design out in our fake "stream" and see how much electricity it generates.

The Standards

This project is designed to meet Michigan's HS-PS3-3 and HS-ETS1-2 science and engineering standards, and many of ISTE's Student standards. For more information, you can read our standards summary document, Michigan's standards document, and the ISTE's standards page.

The Rubric

The best design won't just have to be good at generating electricity. It's also important to have a water wheel that's durable (so it lasts a long time) and that uses as little material as possible (so it's not too expensive to make). You'll also need to be able to work with your teammates, and understand your test results well enough to explain them to others. You can see the full rubric that your teacher will use to grade your project here.

Important Links

Step by Step