Did you make some hot ice yesterday?  If you did, don’t forget to send some pictures to our email address – you could win a prize!

Since about 1700, the human race has been relying on fossil fuels to produce the energy we require to fulfil our ever-increasing demand.  We all know the disadvantages of using fossil fuels, (global warming, climate change, acid rain), and that they are a finite resource (there is a fixed amount available), but what could we use instead?

Waterwheels have been used since at least the first century BC and were used to power comercial mills in Roman Britain and by the time the Doomsday Book was compiled, there were over 6,000 watermills in Britain.

This seemingly ancient technology can be used to produce electricity and may be part of the answer to our alternative energy problems.

Today, we are going to build a working model of a waterwheel and investigate how we can alter the speed at which it turns.

  1. Use a circular template (such as a plate) and draw two big circles on the plasticard/ thick cardboard, then cut out the circles to form the sides of your wheel.
  2. Mark the centre of the circles and cut a hole in the middle of each of them. The hole in the centre should be wide enough to fit the axel (doweling or pencil). Then use split pins or tape to attach plastic cups to the edge of the wheel (it will work best if you use at least 4 cups). Make sure the cups are positioned at around a 45 degree angle to the edge of the wheel.
  3. Once you’ve built the wheel, push the doweling or circular pencil through the holes in the middle of the wheel, and mark a point on the wheel so you can count its rotations.
  4. Now it’s time to test! Hold the water wheel above the bucket or bowl, and pour water into the waterwheel from above to make it turn (you could also pour dried beans from a bottle instead of water).
  5. Try pouring water from different heights to see if the speed of the wheel changes or try increasing the stream of water and observe whether the wheel speeds up.


To think about: How is the electricity that you use at home generated?  What alternative methods could individual homes use to generate their electricity?  How could homes become more energy efficient, so that they have fewer electricity demands?

Remember: If you build a waterwheel, send us a picture here at The Left-Handed Lemon blog and you could win a prize!  (Email your pictures to: lefthandedlemon@hurworth.swiftacademies.org.uk)

If you want to have a go at tomorrow’s experiment, you will need some epsom salts, (often found in bath salt), some sand and a magnifying glass!

Until next time, Keep calm and apply some Science!

This activity has been taken from the downloadable pack available on https://www.britishscienceweek.org/