Water Wheel

Water Wheel

Head outside while it’s still warm and learn about the movement of water wheels which are used to convert the energy of falling water into a power source!

9 - 16
Est. Time:
<30 mins

How we did it:

Materials List

  1. ribbon spool - We used a 3 1/2" diameter plastic ribbon spool
  2. container lid - plastic
  3. marker
  4. scissors
  5. pushpin
  6. dowel - 3/16" diameter
  7. hot glue / hot glue gun
  8. x-acto knife
  9. plastic condiment cup (6-12) - clear
  10. straw
  11. water pitcher
  12. water
  13. food coloring - optional
  1. Gather your materials. 

  2. Trace the spool onto the lid and cut it out. Then, using the push pin, make a hole in the center just large enough for the dowel to fit through it. 

  3. Hot glue the lid to one side of the spool. Trim the edge with an exacto knife so that it’s smooth.  

    Note: If there’s ribbon on your spool, you may want to remove it. 

  4. Lay the cups around the perimeter of the spool so that they are as close as possible. Then, hot glue the cups around the perimeter of the spool. 

    Note: The size of your spool will determine how many cups you will need. The larger the spool size, the more cups you will add. 

  5. Slide the lid onto the dowel. Then, slide the straw over the dowel.  

  6. Now, you’re ready to play with your water wheel! Using either a sink or a water pitcher, pour some water over your water wheel and watch it spin! Try to make it slow down or speed up by decreasing or increasing the water pressure. 

  7. What's going on?

    The water wheel is an ancient device that converts the flow of water into the motion of a wheel. Falling water pushes down on the cups of the water wheel, turning the wheel in one direction. As the cups move around the wheel, they dump out their water, preparing them to be filled back up when they've rotated back to the top of the wheel. Water wheels provided mechanical power to communities around the world starting around 400 BCE, helping people pound wheat into flour or saw logs in half. Today, modified water wheels, known as turbines, can be found inside of hydroelectric dams, where they convert the motion of falling water into electricity.