STEAM Connections: Anemometer

Have you gone outside today? If so, did you need an umbrella or a coat when you went outside? Maybe you needed both because the weather forecaster said it was going to be cold and rainy. Ever wonder how people have an idea about what the weather will be like up to a week before the weather changes? The answer has to do with wind speed and the direction the wind is coming from. But, how do we know how fast the wind is blowing and where it’s coming from?  We have to measure it! How do we do that? Let’s find out!

Content Overview

Wind speed tells us a lot about what kind of weather is coming our way because wind speed describes how fast the air is moving past a certain point. Not only do we need to know how fast air is moving in order to predict the weather, we also need to know where the wind is coming from. Is it coming from the West? Is it coming from the North? Wind speed and direction are important for monitoring and predicting weather patterns and global climate. Wind speed and direction also have many effects on surface water, which also affects our weather. Measuring wind speed is a part of weather and the study of weather falls under atmospheric science. Wind speed and direction help us predict the weather which is called forecasting and is a part of meteorology.

In order for meteorologists to predict the weather, they have to know how fast the air is moving. We can’t know how fast the air is moving and what direction it’s coming from without a tool to measure it. The tool that is used to measure wind speed and direction is called an anemometer. Want to see how one works up close? Let’s make one and see how it works!

Hands-On Exploration

Supplies you need:

  • Single hole paper punch (a hole could be made with a pen if you don’t have a hole punch)
  • Scissors
  • Push Pin
  • 5 paper or plastic cups
  • 2 straws
  • Pencil with an eraser
  • Tape

Instructions:

  1. On one cup, use the single hole paper punch to punch two holes directly across from each other, ½ inch underneath the rim of the cup. The holes should be level and even. Punch two more holes ¼ from the rim of the cup, directly across from one another, and halfway between the two first punched holes. This will be the center cup of the anemometer.
  2. On the other four cups, punch one hole on the side of each cup. The punched hole should be about ½ inch under the rim of the cup.
  3. Feed the straws through the center cup’s holes so the straws form a big ‘X’ through the center of the cup.
  4. Use a pencil to punch a small hole in the bottom of the center cup (the cup with 4 holes). Make sure the pencil can fit through the hole and sit loosely.
  5. Push the pin through the straws and into the eraser of the pencil.
  6. Now you will connect the other cups! Fit a straw through the hole in one of the cups that has one hole punched in it. About ½ inch of the straw should be poking through the inside of the cup. Bend this ½ in of straw into the cup, face the opening of the cup perpendicular to the opening of the center cup and tape it to the inside wall of the cup. Do this same procedure with the other cups – all openings of the cups should be facing the same direction.
  7. Hold the pencil and make sure the cups can spin around the pencil. Then test with different wind sources!
Talk About the Activity
  1. How fast did your anemometer go? Was it fast? Was slow? Somewhere in between?
  2. If it was fast, what do you think that meant? If it was slow, what could that mean?
  3. Did you try your anemometer in different places? For example, inside versus outside, the front of your house versus the back of your house? Was there a difference in how fast your anemometer spun? 
Continued Learning

Wind affects the weather we experience each and every day. In order to know what kind of weather is headed our way, we need to know how fast the air is moving. How fast the air is moving is called wind speed and we measure it with an anemometer, just like the one we made today! When we know the wind speed and the direction, we can better predict what kind of weather we will experience. When we know what kind of weather to expect, we can better prepare for it when it gets here. So, will we need an umbrella tomorrow or a heavy coat? Check the wind speed with your anemometer and find out!

Check It Out

Here are some items from the library collection so you can learn more!

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