E is for engineering

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  • Building for the future: Students from the Endeavour programme with their own anemometers

    Building for the future: Students from the Endeavour programme with their own anemometers

This week’s Endeavour challenge

Your challenge is to create an anemometer, one that can efficiently turn and also measure the wind, it’s more difficult than it sounds.

To make it even more challenging one that can also measure wind direction. How to calibrate:

1. On a windless day, have an adult drive you in the car down the street at 10 miles per hour.

2. Hold the anemometer out the window and count the number of rotations in 30 seconds.

3. However many times your anemometer spins in 30 seconds will correspond roughly to wind blowing at ten miles per hour

The America’s Cup Endeavour programme is not just about sailing. The core of the programme is the STEAM curriculum — science, technology, engineering, arts and maths.

This week readers can learn exactly what Bermuda’s middle schoolchildren are learning. Let’s look at E for engineering — straight from the STEAM curriculum.

This is not obvious, but the area where they focus most on engineering is building something called an anemometer, an instrument for measuring the speed of the wind. This module in addition to engineering also covers maths and science.

Engineering is the branch of science and technology concerned with the design, building, and use of engines, machines and structures. It often requires good problem solving skills key to any student’s development.

We live our lives by the wind, its strength and direction. Especially here in Bermuda, wind and the monitoring wind are essential to day-to-day life.

Whether catching the ferry, sheltering from a hurricane or even riding your bike down South Shore we experience the wind day in day out. Bermuda is also shaped by the prevailing South Westerly wind direction. More importantly for the programme, we need wind for sailing.

First and foremost, we need to check if there is too much wind or too little and then the direction, so that we do not become stuck in “Irons”, a term for heading directly into the wind where the sails flutter and the boat becomes stuck.

Bermudians even talk about the wind on a daily basis. The traditional saying of directing a lost local, “Up the Country” or “Down the Country”, these terms are referring to the wind.

Years and years ago, Bermuda was impassable by land and it was often easier to sail from one end to the other. With the prevailing wind coming from the South West, that meant in order to get to Somerset you had to Zigzag and sail Up wind, St George’s was far easier to get to as you just aimed at the point and sailed Down wind.

This is where the two terms derive from.

Anemometer is a difficult word to first pronounce. It is the device used for measuring this incredible natural moment of air. America’s Cup Endeavour students create and engineer their own anemometers using a mixture of equipment including, paper straws, paper cups, tape, pencils, chop sticks or anything they can find such as leaves or twigs. The goal is to create an object that can rotate continuously measuring the wind.

The device must be rigid enough to withstand the wind and must have a low friction centre so the paddles can rotate freely. The paddles have to also be calibrated and face the exact same angle of attack. More often than not it’s quite incredible to see the variation of designs, some with multiple paddles and changing in shape and size.

Once the students build their prototype they are then encouraged to test and adapt the engineering. This is where they begin the problem solving and ensure that the device is working efficiently.

Most often students find that the anemometer does not rotate for using say two paddles as opposed to four, for example. Once they have the device up and running they then find a clear area and ensure the wind is not being distorted by any buildings or objects, then they measure the amount of rotations over a set period of time. They then experiment with calibrating the device and listing that x amount of rotations equals x KTS or MPH of wind.


Calibrating your anemometer gives you a basis to compare your collected data. For example, if your anemometer spins ten times in 30 seconds then you know in the future that ten spins in 30 seconds means the wind is going x KTS or MPH.

If you want to be even more accurate, you can calibrate at many different speeds and make a chart of your results.

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Published Dec 10, 2016 at 10:00 am (Updated Dec 10, 2016 at 9:13 am)

E is for engineering

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