How to Build a Simple, Small Water Turbine

Written by alice stewart
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How to Build a Simple, Small Water Turbine
The ancient Greeks invented the water wheel. (old English water wheel image by green 308 from

You can create a small water turbine, or hydro wheel, as part of a science project to teach children the importance of renewable and eco-friendly electricity sources. On a large scale, water turbines and hydroelectricity stations harness the power of moving water and turn it into electricity. China is home to the world's largest hydropower project, the Three Gorges Dam, which when fully operational will generate an enormous 22.5 gigawatts of electricity a day.

Skill level:
Moderately Challenging

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Things you need

  • Plastic soda bottle (2-liter)
  • Marker pen
  • Scissors
  • Craft knife
  • Barbecue skewer
  • Bottle cork

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  1. 1

    Wash the inside of the bottle and peel off all labels. Measure and mark a spot 4 inches down from the top of the bottle. Puncture the bottle on the mark, and use the scissors to cut around the plastic to remove the top of the bottle. Discard the top.

  2. 2

    Measure the new height of the bottle and mark its centre point. Puncture the mark and cut the plastic bottle in half around its width. You now have two pieces of plastic: the base and an open-ended middle section.

  3. 3

    Cut a small V-shape out of the base of the plastic bottle. This will allow the water to flow out.

  4. 4

    Cut the middle section vertically, so that it becomes one long piece of plastic. Measure the length of the plastic and divide it by eight. Mark eight equal sections onto the plastic. Cut out each section. These eight pieces of plastic will form the blades of the water turbine.

  5. 5

    Cut eight evenly spaced slits into the cork using the craft knife. Insert a plastic blade into each groove, ensuring that the curves in each piece of plastic are facing the same way.

  6. 6

    Poke the barbecue skewer through the cork lengthwise. Remove the skewer. Pierce the base of the bottle on opposite sides of the V-shaped cut-out. Thread the skewer through one of the holes in the base and push the cork back onto the skewer. Thread the skewer through the other hole on the base, so that it pokes out the other side of the bottle.

  7. 7

    Pour water directly over the wheel and watch it rotate.

Tips and warnings

  • For an extra educational lesson, attach a piece of string with a small weight onto the end of the skewer. Pour water over the small turbine and watch the rotating wheel cause the weight to rise.
  • Cut plastic is sharp, so be careful when handling the water turbine.
  • Craft knives should only be used by adults.

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