ROUGH SCIENCE - Episode 3 (ca. 2000)

This episode was a lot of fun to make. With our combined efforts Venessa, Mike and I knocked up a working windmill and generator. It was definitely a case of three people working together are better than three working alone! The details of the generators are given in the free OU booklet obtainable from the OU. What follows are a few extra points and thoughts about this part of the programme.


Mike and I were very fortunate to be given a set of very powerful magnets to play around with for our generators. Mike made up a super generator from a number of these magnets and a metal former (to contain the magnetic field and concentrate the effects). In his design the magnets were fixed in place and he spun the coil. This means that you need a clever solution to making sure the wires coming from the coil don't get tangled up when it is spun. I on the other hand fixed my coil in position and spun the magnets. Mikes generator gave a DC ouput, that is the current produced by it always flows in the same direction, even if it tends to be pulsed a little - hence Direct Current. My generator produced an AC current which means that over a short space of time the current flows one way then half the time in the reverse direction - hence Alternating Current, AC.

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Build your own generator


Our Rough Science windmill on location in Capraia

Vanessa and I built the windmill from an old abandoned palet. Each of the wooden slats were removed, cleaned up and used for the sails of the windmill. The most difficult part of the windmill is making the circular centre. This has to be marked up and cut carefully so that the sails have the correct angle to pick up the wind. Also the sails should not wobble to much and must be fixed in place securely and strongly. This isnt to hard as long as one takes a little care. I used a laminated piece of wood - i.e. a sheet that is made up of a number of thin sheets one on top of the other but with the wood grains of each going in different directions. This makes for a strong central base. If a solid piece of wood is used it might crack along the grain of the wood.

Close up of Windmill
Close up of the Rough Science windmill

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Make your own windmill

(all photos: Jonathan Hare)

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Dr Jonathan Hare University of Sussex, Brighton.

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