Electricity and energy are such abstract concepts. We just plug things in and they work. One day, my daughter brought home a toy windmill from school, and I guess I thought I could take that understanding a little bit further. So I told her: “We can make electricity with that”.
I did a little reading beforehand, and found a few people who had made wind generators online, so I had a rough idea of what I was going to build, and what parts I needed. We took the subway to Active Surplus, picked up a couple of electric motors, some flashlight-sized light bulbs, some LED lights, and some diodes.
First, I connected the windmill to the motor, and the motor to a flashlight bulb. I didn’t do any math. It may come as no surprise to some of you that we couldn’t get enough power from the windmill to drive the bulb.
Plan B. I built a bridge rectifier with the diodes I picked up, to get DC power from the motor, and connected it to an LED light. It worked! I was able to illustrate that we could convert wind energy to light: harness energy from the wind, make a little electricity, and generate light. Every toy windmill needs this built in!