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How Water Wheels Generate Kinetic Electricity



London is an elementary school student at Dunn School in Los Olivos, California.


I have always wondered what water wheels do, and how they function. I knew that they were used for agriculture, but didn’t know what. Recently, upon researching about the water wheel, I found out how it was used, and why we can still make use of it! When I wanted to do the science fair, I immediately thought of electricity, and my brain wondered how it was made, so I did some background research, and then, eventually made my own model!

How it works

Now before I could make a model, I knew that I had to understand how it worked, so I did, and now the question stands, How? How can water wheels generate kinetic electricity? Well, when the dam gets opened and the water flows out, the water exerts a falling force because of gravity, and makes the wheel spin. This force then generates kinetic energy. Kinetic energy is crucial to our daily lives, but how does kinetic energy turn into electricity? Before the water wheel prototype came into my mind, I wanted to make a hydro powered dam, and decided that the best way was looking at hydroelectric dams. These dams create electricity using a turbine. This turbine generates kinetic energy when the water comes through the flood gates, and is hooked up to a generator. This generator has copper coils and or long distance power lines.

But what do the copper coils do? When the turbine generates kinetic energy, the magnet (in a magnet generator) pushes the electrons into the copper coil. This phenomenon is easy to recreate, with the only materials being: coil/wire, a battery, and a magnet. The magnet is placed under the battery to extract the electrons from the battery and push them out into the wire; the electrons should go through the wire as the wire is static. The best model of this is motors, they have a coil wrapped around it, and a magnet too! When the tip of the motor spins, the magnet spins, pushing the electrons in the coil around, which then connects to the other end of the motor where the electrons are pushed to.


Water wheels were a huge invention, and turbines follow a similar design too! I think that water wheels and turbines are the future, and the future has much clean energy waiting because there is so much potential energy waiting out in the world. It was very special to experience how this water wheel worked, and how it can function (it can have different uses), so I am thankful for the science fair!

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